Same-sex marriage in Iowa (SSM)
Appeal of the 2007-AUG
ruling to the state Supreme Court
Background of Varnum v. Brien:
Judge Robert Hanson, of the Iowa district court for Polk County determined that
Iowa's decade-old Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) conflicted with two
clauses of the state constitution -- the sections dealing with equal rights for
all citizens and due process. On 2007-AUG-30, he ruled that the DOMA law was
Within 24 hours the Polk County attorney's office filed an appeal of Hanson's
ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court.
Dozens of same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses, but only one was able to
actually marry before Judge Hanson issued a stay of his order pending a decision
of the Supreme Court..
Hearings were scheduled for 2008-DEC-09 before seven justices. 1
Assistant Polk County Attorney Roger Kuhle started the hearing with a 30
minute presentation in defense of the existing law. He argued that Judge Hanson
was mistaken in his 2007 ruling, and that the county had followed the "clear,
unambiguous language" of state law. He said that marriage had always been
defined as a union of a man and woman, and that the prime purpose of marriage
was and is procreation. The implication is that same-sex couples cannot
procreate and thus should not be allowed to marry. He may be unaware that
lesbian couples can procreate through artificial insemination, in the same way
that many infertile opposite-sex couples do. He might also be unaware of
adoptions by male same-sex couples.
Justice Brent Appel asked Kuhle whether making same-sex marriage available
would harm children. Kuhle suggested that long-term damage to the institution of
marriage might result from the legalization of SSM. "We're saying that, after a
generation, maybe two, people will see or could come to believe that if it's not
necessary to have its biological father, or its biological mother, then what's
the need for getting married?" He suggested that SSM would teach future children
that marriage is no longer about procreation. He said: "One could easily argue,
and we do, that fostering same-sex marriage will harm the institution of
marriage as we know it. It's not going to happen tomorrow. We're not going to
see any changes tomorrow, next week, next year, in our generation. But you've
got to look to the future."
Attorney Dennis Johnson argued for plaintiffs -- six same-sex couples.
Several of the Supreme Court justices asked him whether legalizing same-sex
marriage would lead eventually to allowing polygamous marriages. Johnson denied
this as a possibility. He said that marriage would remain a union of two people.
Justice Mark Cady asked: "How do you stop? How do you stop more than two people
from getting married?" Johnson replied that a marriage "... has always been well
defined within the concept of two people." Allowing three or more people to
marry would deviate from the historical meaning of marriage: the committed,
lifetime union of two persons to the exclusion of all others. He said that
same-sex couples should have the right to marry because they meet all other
requirements to wed; they differed only by the gender of one spouse. He
continued: "This right is a time-honored right and tradition in this society.
What you see is that people have always had a fundamental right to marry. The
court has made it clear. With more than two people, you would change the meaning
Johnson said that Kuhle's suggestion of damage to the institution of marriage
was "highly speculative."
In his rebuttal, Kuhle criticized the plaintiff's lawyers of "cherry picking"
from various court cases to build an argument that only appeared to be logical. '
He said: "It has some appeal, frankly. You talk about fairness, and who doesn't
want to treat people fairly?"
Kuhle objected to the plaintiff's lawyers suggesting that same-sex marriage
is a civil rights issue. He noted that the U.S. Supreme Court in
Lawrence v. Texas declared laws that criminalized
sex between persons of the same gender to be unconstitutional. That gave gays
their civil rights. But now, they are pushing an agenda way beyond mere civil
rights in order to seek the right to marriage. 2 His
implication appears to be that marriage is not a human right.
Just before the Iowa Supreme Court Ruling
By late 2009-MAR, a poll conducted by KCCI, Channel 8 in Des Moines shows that
the visitors to
their website were almost evenly matched on whether the court will approve or
Reva Evans and Ingrid Olson are one of the same-sex plaintiff couples. Olson
talked about their son on APR-02: "I'm actually ready and hopeful about tomorrow. ... He deserves the same
future as all other children in Iowa that have married parents. ... It's about
him and it's about our love for each other. It's definitely about
fairness and equality."
Two opponents of SSM, Chuck Hurley and the Rev. Keith Ratliff, do not see
marriage as a right for gays and lesbians. Ratliff said:
"They have made a choice that is contrary to the word of God, and the bottom
line is they have every opportunity to marry the opposite sex." Hurley said: "I
anticipate we'll grieve for the children of Iowa."
If the court rules in favor of marriage equity, there will undoubtedly be a
move in the legislature to modify the state constitution to outlaw SSM. However,
there is only a week or two left in the current legislative session to accomplish
The Iowa Family Policy Center, a conservative group opposed to marriage
equality, asked its supporters to gather at the Judicial Branch Building on the
morning of 2009-APR-03. They suggested:
with us for a time of solidarity and solemn prayer tomorrow morning before the
ruling is handed down on homosexual marriage. This is not the time for signs or rallies, but rather a time to stand together as the
Body of Christ in this state."
"Please wear red clothing. Also dress warmly, as it will be cold tomorrow morning."
"Please join us as we pray that Iowans (especially legislators and Christians) would respond appropriately to the
Supreme Court ruling, by defending marriage 4 as it has existed throughout all
of history: the covenant between a man and a woman."
"Also, if the Supreme Court does attempt
to redefine the institution of marriage, please be prepared to walk across the
street to the State Capitol and begin to lobby for the Iowa Marriage
Some readers of the Grant Schulte article posted comments on the court
hearing. Almost all favored the legalization of SSM:
|"Sluggo3:" "Reminder: Man's laws do not trump
God's law. God's judgment is absolute and final on this matter already."|
|"ScottyB:" "Fortunately in this country we
use the Constitution instead of God's law (or at least your
interpretation of it). |
|"Todd50327:" "At one time Slavery and the
Divine right of Kings were God's laws. I'm sure your great-to-the-tenth
grandfather said God's judgment was absolute and final then too. ..."|
|"nola2250:" "God will always be on the side of
right and justice. Therefore I am confident that the Supreme Court will
overturn this law that is so antithetical to what a God of love and
justice would want.|
|"JohnCalvin:" "God will be on the side of His
law, not man's so called view of justice or injustice; what we think
does not matter in the end."|
|"CarrotCakeMan:" "Your imaginary friend has no
place in the rule of law. Besides, what about the mainline
Protestant churches who want to MARRY us RIGHT NOW? What about THEIR
religious freedom? Why are you trying to deny them THAT? Your view
of the Bible is not shared by all."|
"The Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Metropolitan
Community Church, the Unitarian Universalist Church, and many, many
individual churches want to marry us right now. Again, I ask, what
about THEIR religious freedom?" 2
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- P.J. Huffstulter, "Iowa's gay marriage ban goes before high court," Los
Angeles Times, 2008-NOV-27, at:
- Grant Schulte, "Iowa Supreme Court readies for today's gay marriage case
," Des Moines Register, 2008-DEC-09, at:
- "Court To Announce Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Iowa Supreme Court To Rule
In Landmark Case," KCCI-TV, 2009-APR-02, at:
- In the original Email, the Center enclosed the word marriage in
"quotation marks." This is common among religious and social conservatives
who refuse to recognize SSM as a valid form of marriage. We deleted the
quotation marks because we felt they are disrespectful to loving committed
- "Breaking News," Iowa Family Policy Center
Action news release, 2009-APR-03.
Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2008-DEC-09
Latest update: 2009-APR-03
Author: B.A. Robinson