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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Iowa

2011: Amendment proposed.
Would it pass? Family Leader tour

Sponsored link.

Iowa Marriage Amendment proposed:

As noted elsewhere:

"Reversing the Iowa Supreme Court ruling of 2009-APR-03 that legalized SSM could be accomplished by amending the Iowa Constitution. By writing sexual discrimination into that document, the court decision would be overruled. That is because the Supreme Court can only interpret the constitution; they cannot change it.

The equal protection clause in the state's constitution would still be in place. It would still require people who are "similarly situated" to be treated equally. However, on the single topic of marriage, that clause would no longer apply. Whether a person would be allowed to marry another person that they love and to whom they are committed would then be once more dependent upon the gender of that other person."

To amend the Constitution, one path would have the amendment pass the legislature in 2011, and again in 2013. Finally it would have to be passed by a simple majority of voters on election day in 2014-NOV.

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Would a constitutional amendment pass in 2014?

Perhaps. It depends on the exact wording and scope of the amendment:

  • Case 1: A simple redefinition of marriage: According to a paper published by Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips of Columbia University in the American Political Science Review: 1

Support for SSM among the Iowa voters was

  • 24% during 1994-1996
  • 31% during 2003-2004
  • 37% during 2008-2009.

This rate of increased support averages just under 1 percentage point per year. It is similar to the rate of increase in support for inter-racial marriage back in the late 20th century, and for same-sex marriage in other states in recent years. It is related to the numbers of youths who enter adulthood, and the numbers of the elderly who withdraw from the voting pool in various ways. Thus, major cultural changes like the abolition of human slavery, extending the vote to women, allowing inter-racial marriage, allowing same-sex marriage, etc. go through a decades-long interval slow change before reaching a majority.

Assuming that this rate holds constant, if a vote were held in 2014-NOV, support for SSM would only be about 42%. The amendment to ban SSM would probably pass. However, by about the year 2023, a second amendment might be successfully placed on the ballot to repeal the 2014 amendment. That would restore access to marriage by same-sex couples.

  • Case 2: Total elimination of any recognition for same-sex couples: Many attempts to change constitutions in other states have been actually stealth amendments. They are promoted in the media as a simple ban on same-sex marriage. However they are actually written to ban all state recognition of loving, committed same-sex unions -- and sometimes more.

    The Constitutional Amendment that is being proposed in Iowa during 2011 for a vote in 2014 goes well beyond forcibly divorcing Iowa's existing same-sex couples. It would ban all future same-sex marriages and "... also ban civil unions, domestic partnerships, and any other legal recognition of same-sex couples." 2 That is, the status of loving, committed same-sex couples, whether married or not, would be reduced to that of simple roommates. Their children would be regarded as illegitimate. Their entire families would be stripped of all government recognition and protection.

Surveys show that:

Thus, it seems impossible to predict the outcome of the amendment in its present form if it were to be passed by the legislature and voted upon in 2014. It might well fail. Whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Roman Catholic Church, and some fundamentalist and other evangelical groups can sink the tens of millions of dollars into a campaign like they did during 2008's Proposition 8 in California may determine the outcome of the vote.

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2011-JAN-04: The Family Leader launches tour:

Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader announces a tour throughout all 99 counties in Iowa to repeal same-sex marriage:

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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. Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips, "Gay rights in the states: Public opinion and policy responsiveness," American Political Science Review, Volume 103 (3), 2009-AUG, Pages 367-386. Abstract available at:
  2. Jason Hancock, "Marriage amendment introduced in Iowa House," Iowa Independent, 2011-JAN-19, at:

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

Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-JAN-29
Latest update: 2010-JAN-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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