Iowa, Marriage and Parenthood

(I’m writing this on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  It’s snowing outside and it’s very windy.   We’ve already lost power for four hours today.   Internet is sporadic.   I mention all these circumstances because I cannot really do links.   Indeed, I’ll consider myself lucky if I get this posted this evening.  Also, my information on the Iowa marriage case is far from complete.)

This morning the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously that denying same-sex couples access to marriage violated the Iowa Constitution.   The puts the Iowa court on the short-list of state courts that have reached similar holdings.  (The others are Massachusetts, Connecticut and California.)   And Iowa joins an even shorter list of states permitting same-sex couples to marry.  (The others on this list are Massachusetts and Connecticut.  New York will recognize valid marriages from other states between members of the same-sex.)

Of course, there are many many important things to say about the opinion.   I only want to comment on one here, the one that is pertinent to my blog topic:   The opinion confirms, once again, that access to marriage has become inextricably entwined with concerns about parenthood and children.

Consider, for example, the Court’s initial summary of the plaintiff’s arguments.  After recounting many concrete ways in which same-sex couples are disadvantaged by being barred from marriage, the Court concludes:

“Yet, perhaps the ultimate disadvantage expressed in the testimony of the plaintiffs is the inability to obtain for themselves and for their children the personal and public affirmation that accompanies marriage” (emphasis added).

And when the Court turns to recount the state’s arguments for maintaining restricted access to marriage, it observes that the first three reasons advanced(out of a total of five) relate to child-rearing.

Beyond the summary, the Court’s analysis is focused in large part on concerns about children and childrearing.  Many experts offered testimony about whether children raised by lesbian and gay parents are likely to fail or succeed and what the effect of marriage (or the absence thereof) on children was.   Dozens of interest groups also chimed in.

I’d best stop and post this while the power and the internet hold out.   But my thought is to spend a couple more posts over the next couple of days examining the connections drawn between marriage and parenthood and the underlying assumptions supporting those connections.   Some of this is already scattered around the blog, but I’d like to give it more sustained consideration.


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