Thursday, August 20, 2009

Civil Rights Commission endorses legalization of same-sex marriage

Civil Rights Commission endorses legalization of same-sex marriage

DES MOINES - A state civil rights panel is preparing to endorse a court decision legalizing gay marriage, but says other issues remain unresolved and Iowans need to re-dedicate efforts to end discrimination for all Iowans.

The six-member Iowa Civil Rights Commission will meet Thursday to consider a proposed updated policy position on marriage equality that supports the unanimous Iowa Supreme Court ruling and opposes efforts to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the April decision, executive director Ralph Rosenberg said.

He said the panel was previously on record in opposition to a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between one man and one woman. While supporting equal rights for all persons and couples, the commission recognized a religious exemption in regard to same-sex marriage.

The state civil rights panel last addressed marriage equality in a December 2008 resolution that encouraged all local human rights commissions to foster nonbiased discussions on the subject.

"This would be their new position in light of the Iowa Supreme Court case, if it passes," Rosenberg said. "I think it will pass. I think there are at least four votes."

Several commissioners have been outspoken in their support on the issues of marriage equality and extending civil rights to the gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender community, he said, and view the proposed constitutional amendment as an effort to write discrimination into Iowa's constitution.

Rosenberg said the commission considers the marriage equality issue as "settled law" in light of the Supreme Court ruling and believes the focus should shift to unresolved civil rights issues such making sure buildings in Iowa comply with federal ADA guidelines and ending discrimination in housing and employment based on race, national origin, sexual orientation or other factors.

The commission has initiated an online survey regarding discrimination in housing and scheduled fair housing forums in Marshalltown, Storm Lake, Perry and Urbandale to discuss the issue in areas with diverse demographics or growing suburban populations.

Results of the commission's findings should be published in September, he added.

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