August 30, 2007

Give Iowa A Try

Posted at 4:39 pm (Pacific Time)

“Oh, there’s nothing halfway
About the Iowa way to treat you,
When we treat you
Which we may not do at all.”

–Meredith Wilson (“Iowa Stubborn”
The Music Man)

I’m not an attorney, but Judge Robert Hanson’s 63-page written opinion today overturning Iowa’s ban on marriage by same-sex couples struck me as a resounding victory for the six couples who brought the suit and for proponents of marriage equality.

In the days and weeks ahead, lawyers will be dissecting the opinion. And the decision will almost certainly be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

In the interim, excerpts from Judge Hanson’s findings of fact (listed in his opinion under the heading “Material Facts as to Which There is No Genuine Issue”) may be of interest to readers of Beyond Homophobia.

First, some personal background on my own involvement with the case.

As one of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, I presented the Court with a declaration that summarized the social science data relevant to sexual orientation and same-sex relationships. When I was deposed by a lawyer from the Polk County Attorney’s office, I was impressed that he had apparently read not only my declaration but also all of my blog entries. In fact, he brought copies of several entries to the deposition and entered them into the official record as exhibits. (The plaintiffs were especially interested in my entry on December 27, 2006, Relationship Science.)

Thus, it seems appropriate to post some of of the Court’s findings of fact derived from the social science data here. They are listed below (numbers correspond to those used by Judge Hanson in his opinion):

56. …Sexual orientation is integrally linked to the intimate personal relationships that human beings form with others to meet their deeply felt needs for love, attachment and intimacy. One’s sexual orientation defines the universe of persons with whom one is likely to find the satisfying and fulfilling relationships that, for many individuals, comprise an essential component of human identity and life. The bonds formed in these relationships encompass not only sexual behavior, but also nonphysical affection between partners, shared goals and values, mutual support, and ongoing commitment.

57. Homosexuality is a normal expression of human sexuality….

59. A person’s sexual orientation is highly resistant to change.

60. Interventions aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation have not been demonstrated by empirical research to be effective or safe. They are considered ethically suspect, and have generated cautionary statements from virtually all of the major mental health professional associations because such interventions can be and have been harmful to the psychological well-being of those who attempt them.

63. Being gay or lesbian poses no inherent obstacle to leading a happy, healthy and productive life. Gay and lesbian persons have the capacity to form and are successful at forming lasting, committed, healthy, and mutually satisfying intimate relationships, just as heterosexual persons do, and which are equivalent to heterosexual relationships. The prevalence and durability of same-sex relationships are striking especially considering lack of access to marriage and marriage’s attendant obstacles to separation….

And here are some relevant findings based on Dr. Michael Lamb’s testimony:

72. Nothing about a parent’s sex or sexual orientation affects either that parent’s capacity to be a good parent or a child’s healthy development (“adjustment”). Lesbian and gay persons have the capacity to raise healthy and well-adjusted children.

73. There is consensus within the mainstream scientific community that parental sexual orientation has no effect on children’s adjustment. Numerous leading organizations representing mental health and child welfare professionals (e.g., the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers and the Child Welfare League of America) have issued statements confirming that lesbian and gay parents are as effective as heterosexual parents in raising well-adjusted children and that these parents and their children should not face discrimination.

Judge Hanson also found that “Plaintiffs and their families are harmed in numerous tangible and intangible (including dignitary) respects by their exclusion from the right to marry in Iowa.” He went on to list more than 20 specific instances of such harm.

After so many courts have ignored the social science data, it’s nice to see one get it right.

A copy of the written opinion is posted on the website of Lambda Legal. Lambda attorneys Camilla Taylor and Kenneth D. Upton, Jr., argued the case in collaboration with Dennis Johnson of Dorsey and Whitney in Des Moines.

Copyright © 2007 by Gregory M. Herek. All rights reserved.