Arts & Entertainment
Here comes the judge
Hanson's truth powerful
Originally printed 09/06/2007 (Issue 1536 - Between The Lines News)
District Court Judge Robert B. Hanson of Iowa sent shock waves through the legal community in his home state when he ruled - emphatically - that it is unconstitutional for the state to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. His forceful, eloquent and long (63 pages) decision states unequivocally that denying marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples violates the state constitution's guarantees of "due process and equal protection." He went on to write that as a matter of impact, the law which prohibits issuing licenses to same-sex couples stigmatizes gay families, does damage to their dignity, and harms them in "numerous tangible and intangible respects."
Bravo Judge Hanson! This is the truth that so many opponents of same-sex marriage do not want to have heard. Of course denying marriage to same-sex couples inherently demeans our relationships. It implies, explicitly and implicitly, that same-sex relationships are not worthy of marriage, that it somehow diminishes the very institution of marriage to allow gays and lesbians to join in.
Even some of our so-called supporters stop short of endorsing full marriage rights for same-sex couples. They can accept us as long as we don't try to be "exactly like them," because to them we are not. We are "less than." We are gay. We are tolerated - not fully accepted as equals.
Hanson spelled out clearly that there are not shades of equality under the constitution. Either you are equal, or you are not. "Through the marriage exclusion," Hanson wrote, "the state devalues and de-legitimizes relationships at the very core of the (same-sex couples') sexual orientation - and expresses, compounds and perpetuates the stigma historically attached to homosexuality, for them and all gay persons."
The institution of marriage, Hanson wrote, is "so woven into the fabric of daily life and so determinative of legal rights and status" that denial of a marriage license "amounts to a badge of inferiority" imposed on gay couples and their children.
Of course, not everyone agrees with Hanson, as we saw the Iowa legislature throw itself into high gear to block same-sex marriages with a proposed constitutional amendment. Only one marriage was performed before the state was able to obtain a stay of the judge's order pending review by the Iowa Supreme Court. It is not likely that Hanson's decision will remain the final word on this issue in Iowa.
But Hanson's decision will remain as one of the clearest and most forthright explanations of the penalties that same-sex couples experience every day; in child care and custody issues, inheritance, health care, property rights and a myriad of other daily events and exchanges that are impacted by someone's marital status. It is foolish to assert that marriage inequality is anything other than that - inequality, period.
We commend Judge Hanson and appreciate his courage in issuing this bold and forward looking decision. Hopefully sometime - in the not too distant future - his decision will be remembered as one with the clarity and courage, expressing the obvious to a doubting public.