Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Iowa Supreme Court decision and religious views on marriage

In a unanimous decision today, the Iowa Supreme Court held that the Iowa statute limiting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution. The court's opinion is worth reading, but I was particularly interested in the court's position on religious opposition to marriage:
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 constitution requires.

My hope is that our country is returning to a place where religious pluralism is allowed to flourish without the interference of the state adopting any particular religious point of view. The historic separation of Church and State is exactly why faith and religious life has thrived in the United States since our nation was founded. The return to this founding principle allows all people freedom to hold any religious belief. The decision to allow all dual- and same-sex couples access to civil marriage will not force any church or religious institution to bless a union it does not recognize.

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