Thursday, April 2, 2009

Personal-ish: Iowa Supreme Court Decision Tomorrow

PREFACE: Feel free to skip this one if you know it's going to rile you. We don't have to agree on everything. Abusive comments will be deleted as they appear; negative comments will be decided on a case by case basis; positive comments will mostly be allowed to stand, but I warn commenters not to go off attacking broad categories of people. The decision about which comments are abusive / negative / positive is, of course, mine.

The Iowa Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in Varnum v. Brien by 8:30 AM (local time) on April 3. This case could, potentially, overturn Iowa's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being solely between a man and a woman. The "Brien" in the case name is Polk County Recorder Timothy Brien (Polk County = Des Moines, for all intents and purposes), who is being sued by six same-sex Iowa couples for denying them marriage licenses in 2005.

The District Court judge in the case, Judge Robert Hanson, originally sided with the plaintiffs, ruling that the due process and equal protection guarantees in the Iowa Constitution made it unconstitutional for the state to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples; he subsequently put a hold on the ruling pending a decision from the Iowa Supreme Court.

This, obviously, is a kind of big deal for me and the husband, and I'm kind of anxious about it. It's not so much that there's that much at stake here, exactly, at least not at the moment: we can't file taxes jointly, but, you know, tax-filing is a fairly small part of my life, and I'm not expecting that to matter a whole lot. But I do worry, sometimes, about what would happen if. If I were to die, I don't know that my parents would necessarily try to prevent the husband from inheriting my stuff (and it's not like there's that much stuff anyway; nothing of any real value), but they're not necessarily big fans of his either, and the law would give them the right to if they wanted. (I'm fairly certain that the husband's parents wouldn't stand in the way if the situation were reversed.)

If one of us were to wind up in the hospital, I'm not sure how that would work, whether we'd be able to see one another. Iowa City is about as gay-friendly as Iowa gets, which is why we like it here, but I'm unclear on whether or not there are any specific laws in place covering that situation, so I don't know how that would go. And there are a number of other things like that, things I haven't even thought of, that -- well, I mean, it's not like it keeps me up nights. But there's always that low-grade anxiety in the background. So it'd be nice to have that dealt with.

I don't know how optimistic to be about this decision. I don't really know the court in question, I haven't seen anything about how people think it's going to go, and I've had kind of a string of personal unpleasantness lately that either means I'm on a losing streak or that I'm due for a win, so either way it'll seem inevitable after the fact. I also don't have any direct control over the outcome, and I'm not willing to pretend that I do by praying, crossing fingers, thinking positive thoughts of my own or soliciting positive thoughts from others. Which is uncomfortable, obviously, but it's really not up to me, and I don't see any particular harm in acknowledging that.

I know straight couples have their anxieties too: what if something happens to the kids? What if one of us gets sick? Etc. But the laws acknowledge them as a unit, too. As far as the state of Iowa is concerned today, the husband and I are just kinda friends who have shared some expenses for a couple years, and I deserve as much say on his life and stuff as I did with those of my college roommates, which is to say, basically none. Will that still be the case tomorrow? I have no idea. I really don't. This is a really uncomfortable situation to be in, and, I submit, not one that a country which truly believed in equal treatment of its citizens, and permitting behavior which does not damage the liberty or property of another, should ever put its citizens in. That is, I think even if the decision tomorrow goes the way I would like, I think the fact that it even had to be decided by a court in the first place is fundamentally wrong.


Change the things I can, accept the things I can't, wisdom to know the difference, yada yada.

While we all wait, let's enjoy some music videos (Be warned: very few people will like all five):


a said...

I've got my fingers crossed for you and your husband, and all the couples who want to have their relationships *finally* recognized legally!! Two loving committed adults should gain the full rights and privileges accorded by marriage.

I know it's little comfort if the case gets ruled badly, but demographics are going to win this one eventually: younger folks are just not nearly as homophobic as older people (not saying it about individuals, but absolutely about national cohorts).

The Fern and Mossery said...

My thoughts are with you- I'm "straight but not narrow" as they say around these parts. You certainly deserve the right to life, love and the pursuit of happiness for yourself and your loved ones however you so choose to interpret. I can only hope that someday all the states and the rest of the country can ratify that essential right for all.

Laura said...

If two people love one another and want to have a committed relationship, who cares if the plumbing is inside or outside?

Kenneth Moore said...

I gotta say, I've never seen a music video for the Book of Love... It's a trip!

And the ruling tomorrow? I'll have to keep my eye out. Since I protested and did letter-writing campaigns for gay marriage in Canada, and it passed, I was all like "Cool, that's done with, now I can forget about it until I find a guy." Now that I'm back here, it's just... It's pretty wearing to have to do the same battle over again, but start over a decade behind where I was, basically.

It'll happen. No doubt. It's just stupid how long it will take. So here's to hoping it'll happen sooner in Iowa than it has in DC (Congress has to approve all laws the city council tries to pass, here, so it's been a slow battle!).

zinnia said...

Same sex marriage just makes so much sense!! Of course there is the argument advanced by one comedian "People who don't like the idea of gay sex should just lettum' get married. Then it would be only birthdays and anniversaries just like the straight world!!" giggle

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

You're welcome to come on up to Canada where same-sex marriage is legalized nationwide.

In the meantime, good luck for tomorrow!

Karen715 said...

I hope the court decision turns out well.

If it doesn't, I would urge you and your husband to seek legal advice about wills, living wills, powers-of-attorney (and probably all sorts of stuff I know nothing about) to make sure you have done everything possible to give each other as much legal standing as you can get in each other's affairs.

Ms. Goodbutton said...

in several years people will be astonished how backwards we were back in the early 2000's

Anonymous said...

Just one more voice wishing you well and hoping the decision goes the right way for you and for all loving couples. It will happen eventually and I hope soon enough for this straight 79 year old woman to see and applaud.

Lance said...

I wish you well too. I'm single and probably wouldn't get married even if I could. However it seems so ridiculous to prevent people who want to get married the right to do so. But I live in Texas, so the ranting and bigotry is common.

I think it will happen, just may take awhile.

An interesting book on it is Same-sex marriage in Premodern Europe. Talks about the same sex couple marriage ceremonies held by the church prior to 1100. And the fact that until then the church's stated position was that it should have no interest or say in civil marriages (ie, man and woman) because that was not a holy affair.

Anonymous said...

Just read via joemygod that it passed!!

Lance said...

Just saw it on too - congratulations. Every small victory is a step forward.

Unknown said...

Just read the Des Moines Register for maybe the first time...

I guess it slipped under the Mormons' radar, but anyway, congratulations (I guess?).