I don’t have much to offer in the way of substantive legal analysis of the Iowa marriage ruling (pdf), but here’s one bit from William Duncan’s summary of the decision (via Andrew) that squares nicely with much of what I’ve been arguing is at stake in this debate:
The court first held that same-sex couples are similarly situated with opposite-sex married couples even though they cannot have children together because they “are in committed and loving relationships, many raising families” and “official recognition of their status provides an institutional basis for defining their fundamental relational rights and responsibilities.” The court believed society would benefit “from providing same-sex couples a stable framework within which to raise their children and the power to make health care and end-of-life decisions for loved ones, just as it does when that framework is provided for opposite-sex couples.”
The real question, of course, is whether the very real “similarity” noted in that first sentence requires that homosexual and heterosexual couples be categorized under identical institutions. But like it or not, and no matter one’s views on whether a society should have an obligation to provide the sort of framework that the court thinks would be of benefit to society, that our society has such an obligation strikes me simply as an incontestable fact. If, then, this need is a real one, and if the proposal to use a trivial legalism like that of “civil unions” is (at least on its own) an insufficient way to meet it, then the challenge – and note that I intend this as a real challenge, not just a rhetorical question or an expression of hopelessness – for my fellow Christian and conservative skeptics of same-sex marriage is to lay an alternative groundwork for a broader cultural understanding of the proper nature of homosexual relationships, of the “fundamental rights and responsibilities” that attend to them, and of how the relevant sorts of human goods can be realized therein. But if not through the language of marriage, then how? And if not now, when?
Elsewhere: I’ve linked several times to this essay by Alan Bray, and if you haven’t read it yet you should do so now. Also, here and here are two pieces by Eve Tushnet that fall in the must-reading category, as well.