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Same-sex marriage in Iowa (SSM)

Appeal of the 2007-AUG court
ruling to the state Supreme Court

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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 unconstitutional.

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.

The hearing:

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 of marriage."

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 deny SSM.

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 this. 3

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:

"Please gather 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 Amendment." 5

Some comments:

Some readers of the Grant Schulte article posted comments on the court hearing. Almost all favored the legalization of SSM:

bullet "Sluggo3:"  "Reminder: Man's laws do not trump God's law. God's judgment is absolute and final on this matter already."
bullet "ScottyB:"  "Fortunately in this country we use the Constitution instead of God's law (or at least your interpretation of it).
bullet "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. ..."
bullet "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.
bullet "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."
bullet "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

References used:

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

  1. P.J. Huffstulter, "Iowa's gay marriage ban goes before high court," Los Angeles Times, 2008-NOV-27, at:
  2. Grant Schulte, "Iowa Supreme Court readies for today's gay marriage case ," Des Moines Register, 2008-DEC-09, at:
  3. "Court To Announce Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Iowa Supreme Court To Rule In Landmark Case," KCCI-TV, 2009-APR-02, at:
  4. 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 same-sex couples.
  5. "Breaking News," Iowa Family Policy Center Action news release, 2009-APR-03.

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

Copyright 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2008-DEC-09
Latest update: 2009-APR-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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