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04/03/2009

Religious. Right.

by Jeremy Hooper

Iowa-gay-giftOf all the points in the fantastic Iowa marriage ruling, this might just be our favorite:

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 Iowa and around the nation have strong religious views that yield the opposite conclusion.31

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 marriage.
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31
Many religions recognize same-sex marriage, such as Buddhists, Quakers, Unitarians, and Reform and Reconstructionist Jews. Schuman, 96 Geo. L.J. at 2108. Amicus curiae Iowa and National Faith Leaders, Communities, and Scholars point out the United Church of Christ encourages, but does not require, its local congregations to adopt wedding policies that do not discriminate between heterosexual, gay, and lesbian couples, while the Episcopal Church permits priests to perform liturgies and blessings at same-sex weddings as a matter of pastoral care. Additionally, many groups and clergy within various religions are working to achieve inclusion of same-sex marriage. Id. at 2108–09.
The ruling [G-A-Y]

We've been disconnecting the legality from the ritual for years. It's nice to see this, a thoroughly fundamental aspect of this debate, getting its deserved recognition!

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