Throughout its history, Iowa has played the contrarian when deciding whether to accept popular opinion or to stand up for fundamental rights of oppressed minorities. Friday's unanimous court ruling striking down a law banning same-sex marriage is Iowa contrarianism at its best.

If history is any guide, the rest of the nation will eventually follow Iowa's example.

The Iowa Supreme Court's decision in Katherine Varnum et al. v. Timothy J. Brien is among only a handful of supreme court rulings nationwide that uphold marriage rights of gays and lesbians. It is clearly outside the mainstream of popular opinion, and likely the thinking of many other state and federal courts.

... [T]he court addressed the constitutional question head-on, and could find no principled way to salvage the state's marriage restriction.

... At the heart of the issue is the Iowa Constitution's Bill of Rights, which, among other things, says "the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens." The Iowa court has said before that persons "similarly situated" must be treated similarly, and in Varnum the court concluded that couples, homosexual or heterosexual, are similarly situated because both benefit in the same way from the legal rights and privileges of marriage.

... Aware that it might be accused of "inventing" new rights, the court pointed out that the meaning of liberty is not limited to the understanding of men who wrote the state constitution in 1857, or to the current popular understanding of rights in our time. As the U.S. Supreme Court noted in 2003, "time can bind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress."

The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday made some people happy. It made some people angry. That is irrelevant.

The job of the court is not to be popular but to say what the law is, and the court did that in splendid fashion.