Sunday, April 5, 2009
Good News for the Most Part
Posted by David W.
On April 3, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that marriages between same-sex couples are legal. This decision overturns a 1998 state law that limited marriage to being between a man and a woman. See Iowa Decency.
The important question to ask in regard to the fitness of this ruling is why ever not? The court seems to have followed this line of thinking, as it looked for "persuasive justification" of the 1998 law, and found none. The majority decision, written by Justice Mark Cady likewise concludes that the 1998 law "does not substantially further an important governmental objective." Justice Cady is no doubt correct, for, when we speak of protecting the institution of marriage, what do we imagine we are protecting it from? Surely whatever threat from within (which I cannot fathom) gay married couples might pose to marriage is much less a threat than the blow dealt to marriage if significant portions of the population, having been denied access to the state of matrimony, decide that marriage is arcane and obsolete.
Indeed, the objections to gay marriage that national evangelicals registered since the 1980s have fallen through: where same-sex marriage is practiced, there have been no outbreaks of polygamy, no epidemics of aids, and not even one locust descending to show numinous disapproval.
The part of this ruling that does not make sense, however, is its definition of marriage, in the editors' words, as "a civil contract [that] should not be defined by religious doctrine or views." Why should "religious doctrine or views" be specifically excluded from the marriage discussion? Does Justice Cady believe that there is some actual religious doctrine condemning gay marriage? Or perhaps this reference is a jab at the religious factions who lobbied against the decision. If that is the case, then it smacks of judicial activism--why target a group by name when your ruling is otherwise concerned only with the law, not with politics?
Justice Cady's opinion demonstrates a trend that has begun since the Religious Right lost some political power over the last four years: namely, an insistent intolerance of religion in any discussion of government matters. If this progressive ruling and the similar accomplishments we have seen lately are to be part of a truly tolerant era in history, we must not condemn religion on account of its more rabid participants' excesses. That just wouldn't be (dare I say it?) Christian.
at 12:28 PM