April 3rd, 2009
10:51 AM ET
5 years ago

Iowa Supreme Court strikes down same-sex marriage ban

(CNN) - The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously rejected a state law Friday that banned same-sex marriage.

Iowa now will become the third state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage, after Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Friday's decision upheld a 2007 ruling by a lower court that Iowa's 1998 law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples went against the state's constitution. It becomes effective in 21 days.

"This is a great day for civil rights in Iowa," said attorney Dennis Johnson, a co-counsel with Lambda Legal, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of six same-sex couples seeking to marry in Iowa.

"Go get married. Live happily ever after," he said at a news conference where there was loud clapping among plaintiffs.

Other organizations were not pleased.

"It's, quite frankly, a disaster," said Brian English, a spokesman for the Iowa Family Policy Center. "Obviously, we're extremely disappointed. We're saddened. Perhaps a little bit surprised in the unanimous decision that the court handed down."

The state's highest court determined that "the Iowa statute limiting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution," court spokesman Steve Davis said in a written statement.

"The decision strikes the language from Iowa Code section 595.2 limiting civil marriage to a man and a woman. It further directs that the remaining statutory language be interpreted and applied in a manner allowing gay and lesbian people full access to the institution of civil marriage," the statement on the court's Web site says.

The Iowa Supreme Court said it has the responsibility to determine if a law enacted by the legislative branch and enforced by the executive branch violates the Iowa Constitution.

"The court reaffirmed that a statute inconsistent with the Iowa Constitution must be declared void, even though it may be supported by strong and deep-seated traditional beliefs and popular opinion," the court said.

Polk County District Judge Robert Hanson earlier determined that the law violated the state constitution's guarantee of equal protection, and hurt gay and lesbian couples "in numerous tangible and intangible" ways.

"Civil marriage in Iowa is the only gateway to an extensive legal structure that protects a married couple's relationship and family in and outside the state," Hanson ruled in Des Moines. "Iowa reserves an unparalleled array of rights, obligations and benefits to married couples and their families, privileging married couples as a financial and legal unit and stigmatizing same-sex couples."

The case was joined on appeal by several state lawmakers who opposed Hanson's ruling, calling it "a mockery of the judicial system."

They argued that the ruling stepped on the state legislature's authority by using the courts "to effectuate fundamental changes in public policieregarding marriage."


Filed under: Iowa
soundoff (109 Responses)
  1. Kevin in Ohio

    Time to change the Constitution, just like the PEOPLE of California did. That's the only way around this legislating from the liberal bench.

    April 3, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  2. Iowan

    today is a great day to live in iowa!

    April 3, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  3. john l.a.

    All the people of Iowa have to do is amend their state constitution
    like we did here in CA and the voice of the Iowa people will be heard.

    I feel that the will of the people should always be the law not the high court of the state legislating from the bench for a special interest of one class or another.

    April 3, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  4. mc- atlanta

    Great Day to be an Iowan!

    April 3, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  5. Carl

    The problem is marriage is a religious ceremony and always has been.

    Therefore, the common sense approach is to leave the option of gay marriage up to religion. Many will oppose it, but there are many different options all around the country.

    Personally, this is a ridiculous issue to hold back, because anyone should have the right to marry anyone they choose.

    However, government should never get involved in matters like this, but they do by doing stuff like this:

    Now, the government (state and federal) can do Americans a favor and stop making it benficial for people to get married, like the decrease in taxes you pay married vs single.

    Everyone should have an equal tax base in their salary range. PERIOD.

    April 3, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  6. Jefe

    Unbelievable that in America people care what other people are doing with their own lives, ESPECIALLY Republicans, who are supposed to be so high and mighty about government non-interference.

    I'm not pro- or anti- gay marriage, I just don't care. I'm not gay, so what does it matter to me whether gays marry? I just don't get it. But I do know, THIS is not the nation where the choice should be made by Big Brother. Those who are looking for that kind of a nation should move to North Korea.

    April 3, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  7. Pete

    I have a simple question for you religious fundamentalists freaking out over this ruling. How exactly is YOUR heterosexual marriage actually affected by gay people also getting married? Don't give me Bible verses as your answer.

    April 3, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  8. Sarah, Missoula MT

    A great day for civil right and for iowa!

    April 3, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  9. Dan, TX

    Government should stay out of people's lives and not tell people how to live. It's called freedom. Government should not give one group one set of rights, and another group a different set of rights. It's called common sense interpretation of the constitution.

    I also sense an upswing in Iowa tourism coming....

    April 3, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  10. Rachael from Iowa

    As an Iowa native, I am proud of our state! People often think of us as uneducated and rural...today we have shown that we have heart and truly respect the rights off all people. This is a great day for Iowans and a big step for America.

    April 3, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  11. Chaz

    It's about time! Suggests that maybe, just maybe, more states will become more enlightened and lift the ban on same sex marriage. You would think the whole country would become this free, and it will someday come to pass. Congrats Iowa!

    April 3, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  12. New Yorker

    Considering this is taboo in the Islamic terrorists mind, this ruling, no doubt, will give them all the more reason to try to further destroy this country; and the liberals think the Bush administration brought us into ill repute??? One thing Islam and Christianity (true Christianity) have in common: sexual relations between the same sex is an abomination to God.

    April 3, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  13. Nick

    While I may not be gay, I am pleased my state decided to do this. This will make many people happy.

    And for those who disagree with it, get with the times. Every person should be equal under the law regardless of anyone's beliefs.

    April 3, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  14. Beth

    If it can happen in Iowa, it can happen anywhere. Same sex marriage will soon become a reality throughout the United States, which is a good thing!!

    April 3, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  15. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Move to Canada and get married.

    April 3, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  16. Jerry

    It really is sad that so many people can't understand the concept of equal protection under the law. It's there to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. It seems the only way some people can grasp this, is when they find themselves on the receiving end.

    Perhaps the majority Protestant population of Iowa, should restrict the rights of non Protestants? Would that be ok?

    April 3, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  17. Tannim

    And then there were three.

    How this impacts the pending CA case remains to be seen, but the message is pretty clear–popular opinion and claims of separation of powers cannot be used as tools to violate constitutional rights!

    That, of course, is one of the fundamentals that separates our republic from a pure democracy.

    The ruling is spot-on, and Iowa now joins CT and MA in the land of equal marriage.

    Maybe now they can get rid of marriage licenses altogether now there, since there's no need for them anymore.

    April 3, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  18. Dave

    Once again, false-hearted judges making decisions against the will of the people. When are we going to take back our country from these people who claim to represent us and the Constitution but do neither.

    April 3, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  19. S Callahan

    There is something wrong when 'states rights' are not recognized regardless of the issue. .........

    April 3, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  20. Andrew Steiner

    Thank God... it seems that common sense and civility are making a come-back in our country. Hopefully the rest of the nation will follow suit. For heaven sake... can't we all just get along? Come on straight folk... to know us is to love us! (Well... most of us!)

    April 3, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  21. Bob from Pittsburgh

    Marriage is a RELIGIOUS ceremony.

    Civil Union is a LEGAL status.

    My self I am in a civil union even when my wife a female and me a male. So even when my wife and I would be considered a married couple, we are NOT, we were never married on a CHURCH, but at the local city hall.

    So Ladies and Ladies, Gentleman and Gentleman, you MAY NEVER be allowed to marry by some church standards. Is their church and you may never be allowed in. However if some churches change their rules you may allowed to marry.

    But for now the best you may be able to get is a CIVIL UNION.

    Painfull but true.

    Ta Ta....

    I hope AT LEAST some on the gay community understand difference.

    April 3, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  22. Dave in Albuquerque

    I encourage everyone to read the text of the ruling. It's the best statement on the issue I've ever read.

    April 3, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  23. Watchful Cowboy

    Well another state that won't get my vacation money.

    April 3, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  24. Tiffany

    Thank you Iowa! Proud of my great state!

    April 3, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  25. Matt

    The Iowa Supreme Court deserves all the praise in the world right now. It's sad so few believe in equality in this country; only if you aint differ'nt, I guess.

    April 3, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
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