For Californians, this day is one surrounded either by fame, or by infamy: On May 15, the California Supreme Court overturned the state's ban on gay marriage; the decision will take effect today. California will then join Massachusetts as the only states offering marriage licenses to same-sex couples - a service once (briefly) provided in Iowa as well.
Unfortunately, just as in past struggles for equality and civil rights, closed-minded people continue to make the movement as difficult as it is divisive. But, despite the present discord, history will recognize and commend the leaders of this effort. To that end, the Iowa courts would do well to remove their former ruling from its present stay in limbo. Until that time, it seems "the pursuit of happiness" will remain largely unavailable to many of those who are legally entitled to it.
Depending on whom you ask, Iowa's legalization of gay marriage might be described in any number of ways, but "lengthy" would certainly not be one of them. The day after District Court Judge Robert Hanson deemed Iowa's gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, he promptly issued a stay of his ruling; only one gay couple was actually able to receive a marriage license. Eventually, an appeal will likely bring the issue before the Iowa Supreme Court. Should the court decide to review the case, it can either affirm Hanson's initial ruling or issue a reversal. In the meantime, both sides are doing all they can to rally support.
Of course, the difficulty inherent in the fight for gay rights remains ever persistent, as evidenced by a recent proposal to amend California's Constitution. Aptly referred to as the Limit on Marriage Amendment, the proposal would once again reserve the right to marry for straight couples only. Given marriage's intimate ties to traditional religious and family values, this sort of obstinacy is unlikely to be extinguished by anything other than time. After all, changed minds are rare when both sides of an issue feel a moral obligation to stand their ground. Rather, it seems that regardless of what decision is made, any sort of universal agreement is a long way off.
Ultimately, progress must likely stem from the same source that facilitated change in previous struggles for civil rights. Throughout recent history, America's youth has always been adamant in its various calls for change - each generation helping to chip away at traditional biases that are falsely held in the name of morality. The current movement seems no different; it is most forcibly marked by a dynamic base of young supporters. Indeed, it seems that the greatest social movements can only come from those who have yet to adopt the status quo.
If it is in the interest of the Iowa courts to ensure equal rights among citizens, Hanson's original decision must be upheld. California and Massachusetts have already begun setting the stage for the effort to ensure gay rights. As such, Iowa has the chance to help lead the way in eliminating our time's greatest threat to universal equality. Of course, such a decision is not likely to gain unanimous popularity in the near future, but this sort of social change rarely does. And, considering the undeniable improvements made by America's previous movements for civil rights, it seems that temporary social discord is a price well worth paying.