The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a ban on gay marriage in the case of Varnum vs. Brien today. In a unanimous (!) decision, the court ruled that Iowa’s existing Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional because it violated the equal protection clause:
In addressing the case before it, the court found one constitutional principle was at the heart of the case-the doctrine of equal protection. Equal protection under the Iowa Constitution “is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike.” Since territorial times, Iowa has given meaning to this constitutional provision, striking blows to slavery and segregation, and
recognizing women’s rights. The court found the issue of same-sex marriage comes to it with the same importance as the landmark cases of the past.
Attorneys for the defendant (the county government that denied the licenses) had argued that the law defining marriage was not targeting gay couples, and therefore not a violation of equal protection. The court specifically addressed whether the law was discriminatory against gays:
The plaintiffs contended the statute classifies and discriminates on the bases of gender and sexual orientation while the County argued the same-sex marriage ban does not discriminate on either basis. The court concluded that “[t]he benefit denied by the marriage statute-the status of civil marriage for same-sex couples-is so ‘closely correlated with being homosexual’ as to make it apparent the law is targeted at gay and lesbian people as a class.” Therefore, the court proceeded to analyze the statute’s constitutionality based on sexual-orientation discrimination.