"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


perfect timing

It's my last semester teaching intro American government, and we just started the part of the course that deals with the judiciary, theories of constitutional interpretation, civil liberties, and civil rights. The students usually really enjoy this part of the course as the cases we study are all about sex, drugs, and free speech. Oh, and what not to do when you get arrested. (Some of them take alarmingly copious notes on that part of the lecture.)

I incorporate current events into my courses whenever possible because it helps the students to see how these issues are relevant for day-to-day life. It also shows that the law isn't static.

For that reason, I'd like to thank the Iowa Supreme Court for timing their decision on same-sex marriage for today. They could not have given me a more perfect example, and it will have the attention of every single one of my students. Here's an excellent summary of the ruling's text.

The essential points as I understand them are that not allowing same-sex couples to marry is fundamentally discriminatory and that objections grounded in religious belief cannot be the basis for legal distinctions in a secular state. That last point is key; try as they may, opponents of same-sex marriage have so far failed to come up with a solid argument that isn't ultimately grounded in personal religious beliefs. As we don't live in a theocracy, that won't cut it.


Anonymous kirstin said...

i just wanted to thank you for all your posts on this and similar topics over the years that i've read your blog. you've really helped me think through the issues.

Friday, April 03, 2009 1:59:00 PM

Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Vermont and New Hampshire legislatures just voted for same-sex marriage equality (already having civil unions). Both governors have threatened to veto, but if these hold up, along with Iowa, Mass. and CT, there will be 5 states that recognize same sex marriage equality. Plus, CA if Prop 8 is overturned.

That may be enough of a critical mass for civil rights attorneys to challenge the federal Defense of Marriage Act in SCOTUS based on the interstate commerce provision. As I understand it, that was the legal argument used to overturn bans on interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia in 1967.

And it would be VERY hard for opponents to get an amendment to the U.S. Constitution through both houses of Congress, never mind ratification by enough states.

So, the end of this discrimination could be in the not too distant future.

Friday, April 03, 2009 7:48:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Sure, Kir. Glad to put it out there. I just think that the two sides on these things talk past one another because they don't start with any of the same assumptions.

Michael, I think the tide has turned. If you look at surveys of young adults, huge majorities now support legalizing same-sex marriage or at the very least civil unions. There's a major generational difference.

Saturday, April 04, 2009 10:42:00 PM

Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I know there's a generational difference, but I'm surprised at how fast this is turning around. In 2004, after MA's Supreme CT legalized same-sex marriage and then Canada's Supreme Court said the same (6 other nations have since followed suit), we were hit with numerous 'preemptive amendments' to state constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. Almost all passed--and it was a factor in "re"-electing W by the narrowest of margins (since OH was one of those states).

And in the '90s people feared gays even serving openly in the military! Now, even many of the generals are saying DADT should be overturned. ENDA will probably pass this year. I expect that DOMA could be repealed, at the latest, after the 2010 mid-terms.

That's MUCH faster than even a generational change led me to believe. Of course, if it keeps going state by state, my gay and lesbian friends here in KY will probably be some of the LAST to be able to obtain civil marriages.

Sunday, April 05, 2009 5:27:00 AM


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