Monday, September 03, 2007

Some Logical Problems with Gay Marriage In Iowa

It's usually a good story when Iowa makes the news. We have the world's best state fair, plenty of opportunities to see politicians, more corn than any other state in the US, about five hogs per person, and a famous annual bicycle race across the state.

We don't have an NFL, NBA, or MLB team. (Zach Johnson won the Master's this year, which is a big deal.)

But sometimes the news isn't good. Briefly here in Polk County (just Polk County, not the whole state), it was legal for two men to get married.

Most readers of this blog would expect me to argue against gay marriage from biblical grounds. I won't go into that now. Let's instead look at this from a legal and logical perspective.

Polk County District Judge Robert Hanson rule that that a section of the 1998 Iowa State Marriage law is unconstitutional because it stipulates that "only a marriage between a male and a female is valid."

The basic idea of the argument is that this law is discriminatory against one group, and is therefore unconstitutional.

This is not logical. The Marriage Law is equally discriminatory against polygamists, or the man who wants to marry his cow, or his wife and his cow. The state has additional laws which restrict someone from marrying someone who is already married, or their child.

And whatever popular opinion and tepid thinking may say about the evils of discrimination, nearly all law discriminates in one way or another, at least in technical terms. It defines who may or may not legally do some act. Only particular instances of defined discrimination are illegal. So to argue that anything discriminatory must be unconstitutional is not consistent with the state constitution, because the state constitution has loads of discrimination in it.

I suspect the problem is not just one with imprecise language. If people benefit from a law or body of laws, we don't think about it being discriminatory. If a law restricts our preferences we want to someone to declare it unconsitutional, so we can go ahead.

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