Today Iowa joined Connecticut and Massachusetts in recognizing same-sex marriage. In Varnum v. Brien, (IA Sup. Ct., April 3, 2009), the Iowa Supreme Court held that the Iowa statute (IC Sec. 595.2) that limits marriage to unions between opposite-sex partners violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 6). Conducting a lengthy analysis of equal protection precedent, the court concluded that "legislative classifications based on sexual orientation must be examined under a heightened level of scrutiny...." Finding that the same-sex marriage ban cannot survive intermediate scrutiny, the court did not need to decide whether a strict scrutiny analysis should be applied instead. Near the end of its opinion, the Court focused on the question of religious opposition to gay marriage:
[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.New York Times reports on the decision. Americans United issued a release praising the decision and saying it "has reaffirmed religious liberty." On the other hand, a release from the Traditional Values Coalition complains about judicial activism and warns of possible losses and mandates that it says could be imposed on religious groups.
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.