April 3rd, 2009
10:51 AM ET
9 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. Sarah, Northern Colorado

    Anyone else find this bass-ackwards that California, supposedly the most liberal state in the nation, votes to ban gay marriage, and Iowa, which is in the middle of the Bible Belt, becomes the third state in the nation to allow gay marriage?

    I think this is great, and hopefully other states' high courts will take a cue from Iowa and start realizing and implementing equal rights to ALL.

    April 3, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  2. Sarah

    This is disgraceful! Once again a few court members force the entire populous to accept something that just won't be accepted. How UNdemocratic!

    April 3, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  3. Michael

    Yes, Virginia, there is freedom in the United States. Sometimes it just takes a while for it to crawl past all of the "morally superior" hate-mongers on its way to the light. Let's here it for a commen sense interpretation of the Iowan Constitution!!!!

    April 3, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  4. gt

    drip .. drip... drip...drip...moral decay ,corruption, and indifference is slowly trearing the guts out of this country,,, it wont be another nation that defeats us , we are doing it to .....how sad ....

    April 3, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  5. Tomas E

    Wow, who would have guessed Iowa would have done this. I grew up there but never would have thought they would have progressed this far. Glad to hear it!

    April 3, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  6. obama-mama

    I'm a liberal but I will always believe marriage should be between and man and a woman....Sorry

    April 3, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  7. Me

    Thank goodness. Now that we're on our way to allowing gay marriage we can open the door for polygamy, polyandry, and plural marriages. It's a matter of civil rights to allow EVERYBODY to enjoy the institution of marriage. This is a great day for civil rights. Thank you Iowa!

    April 3, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  8. Alex

    This drives home the point that judges understand a law banning-same sex marriage is UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

    A majority CANNOT take away the CIVIL RIGHTS of a minority.

    April 3, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  9. why change a definition?

    if it has always been a man and a woman, than what is the benefit of changing that if the rights and benefits are the same for everyone

    it is hurtful to the rest of us to change the definition

    April 3, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  10. Joe in Austin

    Great News!

    April 3, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  11. Kevin in Atlanta

    This is difficult issue. While I believe that marriage should be between and man and a woman, I cannot agree with those who claim that these courts are "legislating" from the bench. The Constitution calls for equal rights for all citizens, and if the judges (who were seated by the people's elected representatives) say that laws not permitting homosexuals to marry violates equality, then they have to void the law and tell the legislature to write a new one. Constitutional rights have to be protected for every citizen, and not left to the will of the majority.

    At this point, I would like to state that I agree with Kevin in Ohio, that I would like to see an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage to be between one man and one woman.

    April 3, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  12. ray ray

    @ Jerry writes,

    "It really is sad that so many people can't understand the concept of equal protection under the law."


    Jerry, let's have a short quiz:

    A) Can a gay man marry another man? (no)

    B) Can a straight man marry another man? (no)

    C) Can a gay man marry a woman? (yes)

    D) Can a straight man marry a woman? (yes)

    PLEASE explain to us all who this is a violation of Equal Protection?

    April 3, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  13. Steve in Orlando

    The government shouldn't have a say in marriage, whether gay or straight. There needs to be a vocabulary distinction between legal marriages and religious ceremonies already. What messes people up is the fact that we even call the binding contract we enter, recognized by the government, "marriage". Any two people should be able to enter this contract, and allow the religious institutions decide who can enter into a spiritual union, which is actually "marriage".

    But that will never happen any time soon, unfortunately.

    April 3, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  14. HSNP

    Thank you, Iowa, for striking a blow against legalized discrimination!

    April 3, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  15. Chris


    What a great ruling. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of constitutional "equal protection" knows that this ruling was a foregone conclusion if the judges were acting rationally.

    Since homosexual tendencies are innate (something you are stuck with and not something that can be modified except perhaps by extreme conditioning), homosexuality is a suspect class like race or gender. Furthermore, marriage (and other family decisions) are extremely personal and afforded a great deal of protection as a fundamental liberty.

    Denying a person a fundamental liberty because of an innate characteristic is a big no-no in constitutional law without a compelling reason. I don't think anyone except religious fundamentalists can honestly say with a straight face that gay marriage is so harmful to society that it is worth denying a group of people a fundamental right. Connecticut and Massachusetts are still standing (and in fact have more stable families - reflected in lower divorce rates) than the Bible Belt.

    April 3, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  16. Brian Crooks

    It's important to point out that the court decision states that individual churches can still define marriage however they like. No priest will be legally forced to marry a same-sex couple. That pretty much takes all the wind out of the sails of the right wing.

    And with regard to amending the Constitution, what CA did was unconstitutional and will be overturned. Never before in the history of the country has the rights of a specific group been put up for a popular vote. You CAN'T take away someone's rights by way of a popular vote. That's not how it works.

    April 3, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  17. Jon in CA

    Gay activists are doing what conservatives could never get done.....

    ....pushing the majority of Americans into voting State Constitutional Amendments to keep traditional definition of "Marriage".

    April 3, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  18. Nick - Arlington, VA

    Sarah April 3rd, 2009 11:45 am ET

    This is disgraceful! Once again a few court members force the entire populous to accept something that just won't be accepted. How UNdemocratic!
    Civil Rights aren't supposed to be democratic. They are to be left up to the court's to interpret whether the Constitution is compatible with the claimed right. The Constitution was set-up to protect the minority from the majority. Your right to free speech, marriage, vote, etc. should never be subject to majority rule. If it was the south would have remained segregated. The Court is suppose to do what is right by the color and sex-blind Constitution. They have done so here.

    April 3, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  19. Junglista

    Grow up! Same-sex marriage is NOT a threat to you, your beliefs or the "institution of marriage." Maybe the reason some people are so "outraged" at same-sex marriage is because their own marriage is a bit shaky...

    If people don't stand up for equal rights for EVERYONE, it's a disgrace. In those statements I hear echos of the people in the 60s who fought to keep segregation, or the people in the early 1900s who fought to prevent women from being able to vote. Open your mind, open your heart – these are your fellow human beings. Nobody is asking YOU to adopt their lifestyle, just to recognize that they are people with feelings and that they deserve fair and equal treatment.

    April 3, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  20. RNC + DNC = politics as usual

    @ Michael "..."morally superior" hate-mongers ..."

    Between the far right hate-mongers and the Obama hate-monger army, there is too much hate flying around.

    This kind of the court decision should get people fired up to support Libertarians, and leave the RNC-DNC hate behind.

    Question Authority.

    April 3, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  21. Bill in Indiana

    Those who think marriage is a "religious" institution have a very short view of history. It goes way back before the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians, and it was always a civil institution.

    April 3, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  22. Nick in Iowa

    Very proud to be an Iowan today! Look everyone, even folks in "flyover country" support equal rights for all.

    April 3, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  23. Expat in Canada

    For those that think gay marriage will lead to some sort of moral decay, come up to Canada. Its legal here, and Canada seems to be more stable right now than the States. Seems like its working.

    As for same sex marriage, I don't see how you can't allow people to have the same rights as heterosexuals. Sexuality is genetic, much like sex or skin colour, so denying equal rights is pure bigotry. In 40 years we'll look at this whole debate the way we now look at civil rights struggles in the 60s.

    April 3, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  24. Charlene

    This is a case of discrimination against Christians who know that marriage is God-given and only between a man and a woman. Why not have a civil union with all of the "wrappings" of a Christian marriage but still call it a Civil Union Marriage.

    Christians need to come up with another name for marriage if this perverted trend continues across the USA. How about just calling it a Christian Marriage; Roman Catholic Marriage etc. and the Gays can call their union a Civil Union Marriage.

    I feel the argument...sorry guys/gals a Christian marriage is between a man and a woman. Your marriage is not and will never be the same as my marriage end of story. I feel for the children in these perverted homes. You can call it love but it is not natural and very confusing for the children.

    My oldest son brought home a girlfriend from college (Cal Berkeley) and her mother was a lesbian college professor who lived with a female student. The daughter was so sad; she would not take her friends or my son to her home. It changed her forever..so sad.

    April 3, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  25. nate p

    There should be a difference between marriage and "Holy Matrimony" I don't see why all the religious nuts are against people who are different than themselves. Marriage is between 2 people, matrimony is between a man and woman

    April 3, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
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