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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage in Iowa (SSM)

2010: A hate Email to us.
Reaction by the voters on election day.

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This is a continuation of another list of negative responses to the court ruling on same-sex marriage (SSM)

See also an essay on support for the court ruling and notes about the future

An Email that we received:

Apparently in response to the Iowa Supreme Court authorizing of same-sex marriage (SSM) in 2009, we received the following Email from "D.H."  Spelling, punctuation and grammar were corrected for legibility:

"I hope you fag lovers burn in hell. What part of one man having anal sex with another man leaves room for tolerance? You freaking people are the reason the world is in such chaos. You have kicked God to the curb to brainwash folks into accepting immorality.  Homosexuals are the most vile, disgusting, immoral, disease filled garbage on this earth and should be banished for all time."

"May the LORD bless you and your family everyday."

The last sentence appears to be somewhat incongruous with the rest of the Email. It is probably D.H.'s standard signature.

I responded:

"I can understand your distress. In the past two days there were three major developments in the area of marriage equality:
- The Vermont House approved a bill to create same-sex marriage
- Sweden's parliament did the same
- Iowa's Supreme Court did the same."

"It is probable that your ancestors and mine were quite distressed in the 19th and 20th centuries when African Americans were first allowed to marry, when men were allowed to marry multiple women in Utah for six decades, and when inter-racial couples were allowed to marry throughout the U.S. Polygyny did not last, but the others gradually became non-controversial and accepted into the culture. I suspect that the same transition will happen in the U.S. with same-sex marriage. It has in Canada."

"I agree with you that homosexual behavior would be highly immoral for me, because it would be a violation of my basic nature, which is heterosexual. But, IMHO, for a person with a homosexual orientation, heterosexual behavior would be against their fundamental nature and thus, for them, immoral."

"There is only one reference to same-sex marriage that we have been able to find in the Bible. In Genesis 2, God said that it is not good for a man to be alone. By extension, it is not good for a woman to be alone either. Since gays and lesbians are only sexually attracted to members of the same sex, this means that same-sex marriage or civil unions offers them the best mechanism by which they can carry out God's injunction to live within a loving, committed relationship."

You mention that homosexuals are "diseased filled garbage." You may not be aware that lesbians have a much lower incidence of sexually transmitted disease than do heterosexuals.

Thank you for your blessing.

Reaction by the voters on election day, 2010:

In 2009, the state Supreme Court was presented with an appeal from a lower court asking that loving, committed same-sex couples be allowed to marry in Iowa. The seven justices compared the then existing state marriage law with the equal protection clause in the Iowa constitution. Similar clauses are present in many state constitutions and in the U.S. Constitution itself. They require governments to treat people equally, as far as possible.

The Court determined that the law and constitution were in conflict. Since the constitution always takes precedence, they declared the law unconstitutional and thereby made marriage available to those of Iowa's same-sex couples who wished to enter the commitment of marriage.

The names of three of the seven justices on the state Supreme Court were on the retention portion of the 2010 ballot. The public could vote on election day, 2010-NOV-02, whether to allow them to continue as justices, or be dismissed.

Bob Vander Plaats, an Iowa businessperson, aided by some conservative Christian anti-SSM groups including the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) , the Family Research Council, and the American Family Association, mounted a major campaign to terminate the terms of all three justices. NOM spent about $600,000 to defeat the justices.

All three -- Justices David Baker, Michael Streit, and Marsha Ternus -- lost by a reasonably close vote of about 54-46%. It was, in essence, a vote for or against the Court's same-sex marriage ruling. The three justices jointly released a statement, saying the

"... preservation of our state's fair and impartial courts will require more than the integrity and fortitude of individual judges, it will require the steadfast support of the people."

The justices will be replaced by the current governor, Chet Culver (D), or the governor elect Terry Branstad (R).

When religious conservatives comment on court rulings authorizing same-sex marriage, they typically ignore a prime responsibility of courts to declare laws unconstitutional when they violate the state constitution. Instead, they often claim that the justices are simply ruling in accordance with their individual beliefs, and usurping the role of the legislature by creating new laws. For example, Vander Plaats told supporters after the results were counted that when the justices:

"... went outside their constitutional boundaries, and they made law from the bench, and they executed [the law] from the bench ... every one of our freedoms came up for grabs. That is why this night had to happen. We did not insert politics into the process; they inserted politics in the process when they decided they could make law from the bench. Iowa stood up with a very common sense and a very measured voice." 1

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage said:

"The backers of gay marriage are fond of telling the lie that gay marriage is inevitable in this country. What we have shown in this election is that support for gay marriage is a career-ending position for judges and legislators. The reason for this is that the people of America strongly support marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

"We've turned a major corner this election. We've stopped the gay marriage movement in its tracks and now we are poised to start taking back territory where it was wrongly enacted in places like New Hampshire and Iowa. That will be the next battleground, and we are confident of victory." 1

Brown's comment about strong support for opposing marriage equality was certainly valid circa 1990 when opposition to SSM was about 70% and support about 17%. However support has been rising a little over 1 percentage point a year and opposition has been dropping at about the same rate. According to a chart in the website, the strong support of the American public for marriage inequality has evaporated; opinion is currently evenly split.

The long-term consequences of this vote to dismiss the justices are ominous. Justices of the Supreme Court of Iowa, as well as justices in many other states that allow recall by the public, will probably be faced with similar future decisions in which their state constitution clearly calls them to vote in one direction, while public opposition to equality calls them to vote in the other direction. They are required to uphold the constitution and have promised to do so in their oaths of office. However, they might not be able to withstand the pressure from the public who threaten the justices' jobs. If they cave, then no minority is safe in the U.S. from having their civil rights eliminated.

During the 2010-NOV vote, Republicans retook control of the Iowa House. Democrats had held 32 seats in the 50-seat Senate but lost six seats; they now have 26 seats to the Republican's 24. This increases the chances that a constitutional amendment will be passed to restrict marriage in the state to one man and one woman. Such an amendment would terminate all future SSMs. Depending upon its wording, it could forcibly divorce existing SSMs. The amendment could only be reversed by:

  • Being repealed by a subsequent amendment, or
  • Being declared unconstitutional as a result of a lawsuit in federal court, claiming that it violated the U.S. Constitution.

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References used:

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

  1. Michael Foust, "Gay marriage loses big on election night," Baptist Press, 2010-NOV-03, at:

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

Copyright © 2009-2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2009-MAY-07
Latest update: 2010-NOV-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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