‘Equal Before the Law: How Iowa Led Americans to Marriage Equality’6/3/2015
In April 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court stunned the nation when it issued its decision legalizing same-sex marriage. At the time, marriage equality was the law in Massachusetts and Connecticut, but those were liberal, urban, coastal states. Iowa was viewed as conservative and rural and was in the dead center of the heartland. Furthermore, the earlier court decisions had been close; the Iowa decision was unanimous.
In “Equal Before the Law: How Iowa Led Americans to Marriage Equality,” former Des Moines Register reporters Tom Witosky and Marc Hansen assemble a complete picture of the events leading up to the historic decision and its aftermath, including the successful effort to remove three of the justices and, two years later, the unsuccessful effort to remove another. They explain that Iowa’s proud history of being at the forefront on civil rights gave proponents confidence that the state might able to take the lead on this issue as well.
When six same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses in Polk County in 2005, they knew they would be denied but were hopeful they would be victorious in the legal battle they were provoking. The legal maneuvering is intriguing, but the personal stories of the Supreme Court justices, judges, lawyers and most especially the 12 plaintiffs and their families, make the book truly compelling.
The authors note that the vast majority of court decisions that have resulted in marriage equality in subsequent states cite the Iowa Supreme Court decision. The release of the book is especially timely in light of the anticipated United States Supreme Court ruling later this month on whether all states must allow same-sex marriage or at least recognize marriages licensed in the 36 states where it is now legal. CV
Sally Wisdom retired from the Des Moines Public Library in 2011 and found her dream job at Beaverdale Books soon after.