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Same-sex marriages


Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Iowa

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bullet "If marriage means everything, it means absolutely nothing." Dr. James C. Dobson, of Focus on the Family.

bullet "A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry. Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not allowed to marry. How should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs or as humans?" A posting to an Internet mailing list; used by permission of the author.


The Associated Press reported that:

"Iowa has a history of being in the forefront on social issues. It was among the first states to legalize interracial marriage and to allow married women to own property. It was also the first state to admit a woman to the bar to practice law and was a leader in school desegregation." 1

On 2009-APR-03, the seven justices on the Iowa Supreme Court continued this civil rights heritage when they unanimously determined that the state's ban on same-sex marriage (SSM) was unconstitutional because it violated the equal protection clause of the Iowa constitution. This clause is present in many state constitutions and in the U.S. Constitution. It requires governments to treat people equally, as far as possible.

Same-sex marriages began very quickly after the ruling.

A poll taken by the University of Iowa just before the court ruling sampled Iowans' opinion on the recognition of same-sex relationships: whether they should be allowed to marry, given the option of a civil union with the benefits of marriage without the name, or be treated only as roommates. Results indicated that most Iowans supported either same-sex marriage or civil unions. But only 26% support same-sex marriage. A similar poll asking adults in the states whether they were for or against SSM would probably have been about 10 percentage points or more higher.

A meta-study was published in a paper by Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips of Columbia University. It analyzed each of the polls for all 50 states and shows the increase in percentage support for SSM. In Iowa, support was:

  • 24% during 1994-1996
  • 32% during 2003-2004
  • 38% during 2008-2009

Support is increasing at about 1 percentage point a year. This is a fairly typical rate for major civil rights matters:

  • Support for SSM in other states is increasing at about the same rate as it is in Iowa.
  • Support for interracial marriages increased at about this rate during the late 20th century.

It will probably take until about 2020 before most adults in the state support SSM.

On Monday, 2009-APR-27, same-sex couples across the state began obtaining marriage licenses in their county recorder offices. Some obtained judicial waiver of the normal three-day waiting period and were able to marry immediately.

On election day of 2010-NOV-02, three of the seven justices on the state Supreme Court were on the ballot for retention. All were rejected by the voters. This is the first time since 1962 that an Iowa Supreme Court justice has been rejected. 3

A constitutional revision had been proposed for the 2014-NOV ballot. It was being publicized as an amendment that will prohibit future same-sex marriages and forcibly divorce currently married same-sex couples against their will. However, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D) has vowed to never allow this constitutional amendment to be debated in the Senate.

It appears to be a stealth amendment in that its wording would do much more than terminate same-sex marriage in Iowa. It would also prevent the legislature from creating civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other recognition of loving, committed same-sex relationships in the future -- a provision of which most voters in the state approve. Finally it would seem to forcibly terminate common law marriages in the state.

By 2013-FEB, some commentators speculate that the state Republican Party has abandoned efforts to terminate same-sex marriage in Iowa. According to the Omaha World-Herald:

"After repeatedly pushing for legislative action to put a constitutional amendment before voters that would overturn the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, Republicans said they‚€™ve simply changed their focus to other things.

Still, Donna Red Wing, executive director of One Iowa, the state‚€™s largest gay advocacy group, and others sense a change.

'I was at an event with a bunch of legislators, and they were mentioning priorities, and they didn‚€™t mention marriage. I think we are seeing a turning,' said Red Wing, who moved from Colorado to Iowa so she could marry her longtime partner, Sumitra. 'I think the will is lessening'. ..."

"A 2012 poll found that 56 percent of Iowans said they would oppose an amendment banning gay marriage. That was up slightly from a year earlier." 4

With the Iowa Senate under Democratic control, the House under Republican control, the matter seems stalled for now in the Iowa Legislature. Also, when one considers that:

  • Ten states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia have already legalized same-sex marriage,
  • An upcoming U.S. Supreme Court ruling during 2013-JUN may legalize SSM in California,
  • Healthy and growing polling numbers show increasing opposition for a constitutional amendment to end SSM in Iowa, and
  • There is a great deal of activity in the Legislatures of Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island directed at legalizing SSM,

the outlook for ending SSM in Iowa looks weaker by the year.

Topics covered in this section:

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above menu. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Amy Lorentzen, "Iowa Court Ruling Legalizes Gay Marriage," Associated Press, 2009-APR-05, at:
  2. Amy Lorentzen, "Same-sex couples begin tying the knot in Iowa," Associated Press, 2009-APR-27, at:
  3. Michael Foust, "Gay marriage loses big on election night," Baptist Press, 2010-NOV-03, at:
  4. "Iowa GOP backs off gay marriage opposition," Omaha World-Herald, 2013-FEB-11, at:

Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > here

Copyright © 2007 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-AUG-30
Latest update: 2013-FEB-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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