Today, the state of Iowa joined Massachusetts and Connecticut (and California six months ago) in allowing gay couples to marry. The Iowa State Supreme Court ruled unanimously in its decision in Varnum v. Brien. I'd love to quote from the opinion-which has awesomely been given its own section on the Supreme Court website-but it's currently down. The ruling says that the six gay couples who brought the suit, as well as all other gay couples in Iowa, will be able to wed starting April 24. As we've all seen in California, these victories for gay rights can be fleeting, and so it's probably too early to actually declare that Iowa has embraced gay marriage, but this is obviously a huge and important step.One word of caution: There is already a lot of talk about what it means that a midwestern state has joined liberal coastal states in allowing gay marriage, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Iowa is a pretty solid Democratic state (conservative Democrat, to be sure, but Democrat nonetheless) , and may not be quite the harbinger of change of attitude for middle America that some want it to be. We can talk about that when they do this in Kentucky or Oklahoma.Congratulations to the soon-to-be wed couples in Iowa. I was standing outside the city hall at 12:01 am in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when the first gay marriages in the country were performed, and it ranks up there as the greatest experiences of my life. Come April 24-barring legislative setbacks-there are going to be some great times in Des Moines and Ames and all over that state. Enjoy.Update: Here are the key paragraphs from the decision, the whole of which can be downloaded here:"We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification. There is no material fact, genuinely in dispute, that can affect this determination.We have a constitutional duty to ensure equal protection of the law. Faithfulness to that duty requires us to hold Iowa's marriage statute, Iowa Code section 595.2, violates the Iowa Constitution. To decide otherwise would be an abdication of our constitutional duty. If gay and lesbian people must submit to different treatment without an exceedingly persuasive justification, they are deprived of the benefits of the principle of equal protection upon which the rule of law is founded."