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Posted by on Apr 3, 2009 in Society | 2 comments

As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation

John Aravosis has the full news release from Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy:

“Iowa has always been a leader in the area of civil rights.

“In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected slavery in a decision that found that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped on Iowa soil, 26 years before the end of the Civil War decided the issue.

“In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated “separate but equal” schools had no place in Iowa, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

“In 1873, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against racial discrimination in public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

“In 1869, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law.

“In the case of recognizing loving relationships between two adults, the Iowa Supreme Court is once again taking a leadership position on civil rights.

“Today, we congratulate the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws.”

The video above comes via Andy Towle (whose roundups of reaction — pro and con — are more extensive than this one). It was posted by openly gay Iowa state senator Matt McCoy who says, “Unlike the fight in California, I believe this issue is settled…I believe Iowa will not go backwards when it comes to civil rights.”

Law Dork’s summary of the decision (pdf) is getting lots of traffic. A favorite line of mine from it:

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.

His What Next? post details the tough road to a constitutional amendment. Dale Carpenter at The Volokh Conspiracy notes that this is the third pro-same sex marriage state supreme court decision in the past year:

In addition to the important marriage result, the decision is notable because it continues a growing trend among state courts to treat sexual-orientation classifications as suspect. If it continues, that trend will have consequences on gay-rights questions well beyond the marriage context. State judiciaries are beginning to follow a familiar pattern of hastening civil-rights progress for a group once that group’s cause has achieved a measure of legislative success and cultural acceptance.

Still he knows there’s a large political battle ahead. 538’s Nate Silver takes a look at the odds. He looked at 30 attempts to pass a constitutional ban and found…

…that you can build a very effective model by including just three variables:

1. The year in which the amendment was voted upon;
2. The percentage of adults in 2008 Gallup tracking surveys who said that religion was an important part of their daily lives;
3. The percentage of white evangelicals in the state.

These variables collectively account for about three-quarters of the variance in the performance of marriage bans in different states. The model predicts, for example, that a marriage ban in California in 2008 would have passed with 52.1 percent of the vote, almost exactly the fraction actually received by Proposition 8.

Marriage bans, however, are losing ground at a rate of slightly less than 2 points per year. So, for example, we’d project that a state in which a marriage ban passed with 60 percent of the vote last year would only have 58 percent of its voters approve the ban this year.

He finds that no other variables matter. His numbers predict that by 2012, almost half of the 50 states would vote against a marriage ban. But in that year, Iowa is a toss up. The tough fight Carpenter and the rest of us expect.

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