The other day, my girlfriend was reading for one of her classes about Brazil, where they have several tiers of marriage, and religious marriage is left up to the religious organizations, and the government just deals with civil marriages. Call me a crazy liberal, brainwashed by living in Seattle for these three years, but this is my ideal system for the US - one where the government doesn't have anything to do with marriage, and people can get married if they want, in a religious organization, without any legal implications. This sort of exists in the US with civil unions, but it's far from actually implemented, and there is still a huge stigma to civil unions. I know Brazil doesn't allow gay civil unioning, but the system would allow for it in the US.
Then today, I was reading through an an opinion piece about an over-the-top cheesy anti-gay ad, and it alluded to the actual filing from the Iowa decision to allow gay marriage. It included this section, written by judge Mark S. Cady, evidently a Republican nominee:
I. Religious Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage.
Now that we have addressed and rejected each specific interest advanced by the County to
justify the classification drawn under the statute, we consider the reason for
the exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from civil marriage left unspoken by
the County: religious opposition to same-sex marriage. The County’s silence
reflects, we believe, its understanding this reason cannot, under our Iowa
Constitution, be used to justify a ban on same-sex marriage.
While unexpressed, religious sentiment most likely motivates many, if
not most, opponents of same-sex civil marriage and perhaps even shapes the
views of those people who may accept gay and lesbian unions but find the
notion of same-sex marriage unsettling. Consequently, we address the
religious undercurrent propelling the same-sex marriage debate as a means
to fully explain our rationale for rejecting the dual-gender requirement of the
It is quite understandable that religiously motivated opposition to
same-sex civil marriage shapes the basis for legal opposition to same-sex
marriage, even if only indirectly. Religious objections to same-sex marriage
are supported by thousands of years of tradition and biblical
interpretation. The belief that the “sanctity of marriage” would be
undermined by the inclusion of gay and lesbian couples bears a striking
conceptual resemblance to the expressed secular rationale for maintaining
the tradition of marriage as a union between dual-gender couples, but better
identifies the source of the opposition. Whether expressly or impliedly,
much of society rejects same-sex marriage due to sincere, deeply ingrained—
even fundamental—religious belief.
Yet, such views are not the only religious views of marriage. As
demonstrated by amicus groups, other equally sincere groups and people in a survey in the Des Moines Register in 2008 found 28.1% of individuals surveyed
supported same-sex marriage, 2% opposed same-sex marriage but supported civil
unions, and thirty-two percent of respondents opposed both same-sex marriage and civil
unions. The Des Moines Register survey is consistent with a national
survey by the PEW Research Center in 2003. This PEW survey found that fifty-nine percent
of Americans oppose same-sex marriage, and thirty-two percent favor same-sex marriage. However, opposition to same-sex marriage jumped to
eighty percent for people “with a high level of religious commitment,” with only twelve
percent of such people in favor of same-sex marriage.
Iowa and around the nation have strong religious views that yield the
This contrast of opinions in our society largely explains the absence of
any religion-based rationale to test the constitutionality of Iowa’s same-sex
marriage ban. Our constitution does not permit any branch of government
to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of
ensuring government avoids them. See Iowa Const. art. I, § 3 (“The general
assembly shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . .”).
The statute at issue in this case does not prescribe a definition of marriage
for religious institutions. Instead, the statute declares, “Marriage is a civil
contract” and then regulates that civil contract. Iowa Code § 595A.1. Thus,
in pursuing our task in this case, we proceed as civil judges, far removed
from the theological debate of religious clerics, and focus only on the concept
of civil marriage and the state licensing system that identifies a limited class
of persons entitled to secular rights and benefits associated with civil
We, of course, have a constitutional mandate to protect the free
exercise of religion in Iowa, which includes the freedom of a religious
organization to define marriages it solemnizes as unions between a man and
a woman. See Iowa Const. art. I, § 3 (“The general assembly shall make no
law . . . prohibiting the free exercise [of religion] . . . .”). This mission to
protect religious freedom is consistent with our task to prevent government
from endorsing any religious view. State government can have no religious
views, either directly or indirectly, expressed through its legislation.
[Knowlton v. Baumhover, 182 Iowa 691, 710, 166 N.W. 202, 208 (1918)]. This
proposition is the essence of the separation of church and state.
As a result, civil marriage must be judged under our constitutional
standards of equal protection and not under religious doctrines or the
religious views of individuals. This approach does not disrespect or
denigrate the religious views of many Iowans who may strongly believe in
marriage as a dual-gender union, but considers, as we must, only the
constitutional rights of all people, as expressed by the promise of equal
protection for all. We are not permitted to do less and would damage our
constitution immeasurably by trying to do more.
The only legitimate inquiry we can make is whether [the statute]
is constitutional. If it is not, its virtues . . . cannot save it; if it
is, its faults cannot be invoked to accomplish its destruction. If
the provisions of the Constitution be not upheld when they
pinch as well as when they comfort, they may as well be
In the final analysis, we give respect to the views of all Iowans on the
issue of same-sex marriage—religious or otherwise—by giving respect to our
constitutional principles. These principles require that the state recognize
both opposite-sex and same-sex civil marriage. Religious doctrine and views
contrary to this principle of law are unaffected, and people can continue to
associate with the religion that best reflects their views. A religious
denomination can still define marriage as a union between a man and a
woman, and a marriage ceremony performed by a minister, priest, rabbi, or
other person ordained or designated as a leader of the person’s religious
faith does not lose its meaning as a sacrament or other religious institution.
The sanctity of all religious marriages celebrated in the future will have the
same meaning as those celebrated in the past. The only difference is civil
marriage will now take on a new meaning that reflects a more complete
understanding of equal protection of the law. This result is what our
All I can say is, wow. That is one powerful piece of writing, coming from a state on the fringes of the Bible belt. No east or west coast crazies involved here, this is coming the heart of the country. And it is long overdue.