The Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that the Iowa Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection clause of the state constitution. According to the New York Times, the same-sex marriage licenses could be issued in Iowa in about three weeks. Iowa is now the third state in the US to permit homosexual couples to marry. Prior to this ruling, same-sex marriage was legal only in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The ruling states that “A new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect and difficult to square with the fundamental principles of equal protection embodied in our constitution. This record, our independent research, and the appropriate equal protection analysis do not suggest the existence of a justification for such a legislative classification that substantially furthers any governmental objective.”
According to the Iowa Independent, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf of six same-sex couples and their children in Iowa in 2005. The lawsuit challenged the 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. An Iowa District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 2007, leading dozens of couples to apply for marriage licenses and one couple to marry before the District Attorney filed an appeal to bring the case before the state Supreme Court. The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case in December 2008.