Friday, July 29, 2011

A record to be proud of . . . and yet

"We are confronted primarily with a moral issue…whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated." — John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, radio broadcast June 11, 1963

I'M PROUD of Iowa for being a leader in civil rights. In 1839, seven years 
before Iowa had yet to become a state, and 26 years before the end of the Civil War, the Territorial Supreme Court of Iowa ruled that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped onto Iowa soil. And speaking of the Civil War, Iowa contributed proportionately more men to military service than any other state, north or south.

These are just a few of many enlightened, progressive accomplishments.

1847:  The University of Iowa became the first public university in the United States to admit men and women on an equal basis.

1851:  More than 100 years before the US Supreme Court banned miscegenation laws nationwide, Iowa removed all legal barriers to interracial marriage.

1851:  Iowa gave married women property rights. (Yup, before then our grandmothers and great grandmothers weren't legally 'people' enough to own property.)

1857:  African-Americans were included by the Iowa Constitution as having the "same rights" as every citizen.

1867:  The Iowa Supreme Court did away with the 'common law' that gave men absolute custody of children in divorce.

1868:  The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a 12-year-old girl could not be barred from attending a Muscatine school on the basis of race.

1869:  The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that Arabella Mansfield could not be prevented from practicing law due to gender. She became the first female lawyer in the US.

1870:  The Iowa General Assembly removed the "white male" requirement from the statute about lawyers

1873:  The Iowa Supreme Court ruled against discrimination in public accommodations 93 years before the US Supreme Court reached the same decision.

1875:  Iowan, Emma Haddock, became the first female lawyer to practice in United States Federal Courts.

1884:  Jennie McCowen, who graduated from the University of Iowa, became one of the first women in the United States to graduate from medical school.

1920:  Through national legislation, women finally got the right to vote in the United States (my grandma couldn't vote until she was 32 years old), and at the same time Iowa also made women eligible for jury service which most states still didn't do for a decade or more.

1949:  The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of Edna Griffin in her lunch counter integration case against Katz drug store, a ruling that didn't become a national law elsewhere until 1964.

1965:  Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965 established the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

1969: A landmark US Supreme Court case brought forward by Dan Johnston confirmed the right of students to express political views at school.

Iowan, Dan Johnston

1970:  The Iowa General Assembly made Iowa one of the first states in the country to establish no-fault divorce.

1971:  Iowa district court ruled that Adel High School's prohibition against boys wearing their hair long was unconstitutional.

1978:  The Iowa legislature struck down all sodomy laws 25 years before they were eliminated nationally.

1980:  The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that child custody orders in divorces must not be based on race, and community prejudice cannot be permitted to control the makeup of families.

1990:  Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa was one of the authors of the national Americans with Disabilities Act.

Senator Tom Harkin

2003:  In a unanimous decision, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that forbidding same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, making Iowa the third state in the country to permit same-sex marriage.

And yet . . .  Iowa has yet to have a woman governorUS Senator or Representative, even though we've had some extremely well-qualified candidates. We now have the opportunity to write another progressive chapter in our history by electing Christie Vilsack to replace that embarrassing wing ding, Representative Steve King, in the newly-formed Fourth District. Let's do it on behalf of the 51% of Iowans who deserve just as much of a voice as men.

Candidate Christie Vilsack is running for
US Representative in Iowa's new Fourth District. 

Thanks to Iowa Public Television and Wikipedia for having already gathered most of these names and dates.

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