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. Chas in Iowa

    Just because a couple of judges say it's so don't take it to the bank.
    I forsee the issue being turned over by a public constitutional vote.
    Then we will have a small group of people that have marrages and no rights.
    It's an abomination in any event.

    April 3, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  2. blake in alabama

    This is disgraceful!! This ruling violates the constituion the court over stepped it's bounds and made the law. That ruling should be thrown out. im glad im not from iowa it is a bad day for that state. MY GOD says it is wrong and it is!! i am glad i live in the Bible Belt and my Conservative state of Alabam!!! I hope this is over turned, take it to the US Supreme Court

    April 3, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  3. Shooky

    You know what would be a big step for civil liberties? Not letting laws be determined by activist judges that legislate from the bench. Put these issues to voters where it has a history of being routinely shot down. Something tells me the framers of the US Constitution are rolling in their graves.

    April 3, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  4. Thomas

    "You CAN'T take away someone's rights by way of a popular vote. That's not how it works."

    – Its how it should work, that is the democratic way! If something wins with a 60% majority then it should be law.

    April 3, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  5. John H

    Throw out the supreme court bums in Iowa. They had no legal right to overturn a law that was voted on by the PEOPLE! Lets face it -marriage is a religious issue, not a political issue to be decided on by a bunch of senile old hypocrites! Recall the bums and put them in a retirement home where most of them belong!

    April 3, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  6. Sarah

    This is a great thing! It's about time the whole country does not have to follow a religion that creates an excuse for people to be discriminatory. This country is finally evolving past religion and I think it's fabulous. I'm a woman married to a man, and I don't find it insulting at all that anyone can get married. Heck, let people have more than one wife or husband if they want to, what does it matter? Everyone should have equal rights under the law in such a wonderful country and I don't see the validity in an argument otherwise.

    April 3, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  7. God

    Funny. I could care less what the courts say. I never told anyone that sexual orientation would bar you from being happy with your partner and living a moral life. Some virulent schmuck living in a cave somewhere in lower Mesopotamia came up with that one. If the "religious leaders" who think they speak for me don't want to marry two people who wish to share their lives, that's their problem. Let the civil governments take care of it. I created those too, you know.

    April 3, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  8. Army Vet in Charlotte

    I thought convervatives were against government interference in people's lives. If two adults want to marry (even if they are the same sex) why should the government involve itself in that decision?

    Wait, I forgot–conservatives are actually in favor of government interference if it advances their moral/religious beliefs. It's a general hypocracy inherent in the mindset. Its how they can be both "pro-life" and "pro-death penalty" (which kills people) and "pro-war" (which kills lots of people) at the same time. Hypocrites, I hate hypocrites.

    April 3, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  9. Bjoerlingfan

    To everyone here who is "appalled" at this "moral degradation" or are angry at how the courts could "force unwanted policies" on people, or think this is "undemocratic" here's a news flash: THE COURTS ARE HERE TO PROTECT AND ENFORCE THE LAW.

    Just because public opinion demands one thing doesn't mean that thing is LEGAL. Everyone could vote that if someone steals something from you and there are more than three witnesses you have the right to cut off one of their hands. The people have spoken, right? WRONG. It wouldn't change the fact that this would be unconstitutional. This is why we have the COURTS to protect the constitution. The courts ruled (and rightly so) that a ban on gay marriage violates the law. End of story. It doesn't matter what the people think. It's ILLEGAL.

    No one is forcing people to like gay marriage. No one can force churches that don't recognize gay marriage to marry gay couples (you can thank the constitution for that...that's right...the door swings both ways, people). Just accept the fact that gay couples have the same rights as married couples, and isn't equality what America is all about?

    April 3, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  10. patNY

    How ironic – Iowa, land of corn, and white bread, got it right, meanwhile, NY, a dark blue state, got it wrong.

    BTW – the court was merely doing its job – protecting the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority!

    Equal Marriage Rights BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!

    April 3, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  11. Brian

    Nice to see this pop up in the Midwest as opposed to being the purview of the "ultra-liberal" Northeast. Here's hoping it lasts.

    April 3, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  12. Diane

    Me said – Now that we're on our way to allowing gay marriage we can open the door for polygamy, polyandry, and plural marriages.

    I really don't care if men or women have multiple husbands or wives as long as the marriage is between two consenting adults of either the opposite or same sex. If you want to live in a household with multiple spouses – go for it. Personally the idea of multiple spouses squicks me.

    As long as you don't push your preference on me, I won't push mine on you.

    Marriage is a decision that should be made by the two people involved and, in the case of multiple spouses, the ones in that household. It's nobody's business but the people getting married.

    April 3, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. Pete

    Kevin in Ohio,

    Please answer my previous question. How exactly is YOUR life or marriage negatively affected by gay marriage? Read the decision, no church is being forced to marry anyone (for instance, my Catholic church wouldn't sanction my marriage because my wife wasn't Catholic, does that mean I'm not married either).

    The secular government cannot assignate special rights and priviliges to couplings based on religious edicts. Period. Therefore, gay marriage should enjoy equal protection under the law. Period.

    April 3, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. Jon in CA

    Brian Cooks suggests,

    "You CAN'T take away someone's rights by way of a popular vote. That's not how it works"


    Really? So it's ok for us to lead a prayer before a high school football game? (freedom of religion)

    And it's ok for lawmakers to take away property from a select few individuals (taxing wealthy at a substantially higher marginal rate)?

    And how exactly do felons loose their right to vote, own a firearm, etc?

    And what about illegal aliens? Does the "public" have the right to vote away their rights of living in this country... using our healthcare system...etc?

    April 3, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  15. Jean Mc

    to New Yorker: I am a straight grandma living in Iowa. Jesus Christ is what Christianity is all about, right? Where in the New Testament does he ever refer to homosexuality? His bottom line was the Golden Rule -You are following obscure verses in the old testament that also include not eating pork, certain building restrictions, not sitting on a chair that a menstruating woman sat on – the list goes on and on with many more ridiculous instructions that I have never seen any so-called Christian follow- do you follow these admonitions?? Why is someone else's sexual life any business of yours? No church official is going to be "forced" to perform marriages of gays. This is their civil right as a citizen of our country – take your hate and prejudice back to your church and leave it there.

    April 3, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  16. Nate

    Great Job Iowa!!! This is a great day to be an American.....ALL men shall be created EQUAL!!! The Right-Wing nut jobs can only hold back the LGBT community for so long......and today the LGBT community WON!!!!

    April 3, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  17. Eileen

    Who would have thought...Iowa.

    Kudo's to level heads and sane thinkers in Iowa.

    April 3, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  18. patNY

    Only when people disagree with a judicial decision, do we hear that the judiciary is legislating from the bench. You types need to read your US HIstory and Gov't book again, and you will learn that the role of the courts is to interpret the constitution, and rule whether statutes violate it or not, That is what was done here plain and simple. Because we're dealing with the judiciary and matter of civil rights, the will of the majority is irrelevant...or else, inter-racial marriage would still be banned.

    April 3, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  19. Lex in NY

    Im a strong supporter of gay rights and i feel that more states should follow iowa, mass., and conn. leads and give people the freedom to marry who they please. once again, individual churches with individual beliefs should be respected just the same and no same-sex marriage should be forced upon a priest/minister who does not believe in it. That being said, if the gay community respects religious culture and what it entails, than the churches, no matter how disappointed they are should respect the views of other fellow americans. i believe that this is a step in the right directon for america especially for gay rights. i hope that we can continue this fight for freedom and get the rights that we deserve as "The People" .

    we are all here together, theres no room for discrimination

    April 3, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  20. Fair is Fair

    Hey... if gays want to marry, so be it. I personally don't care.

    What I do care about, though, is a double standard. Example:

    It's proven that smokers live on average 10 to 15 years less than non-smokers. Consequently, they must pay higher premiums for things like life insurance.

    It's also proven (go look it up) that gay men live 10 to 15 years less than hetero men. But their lifestyle cannot be used to justify increased rates.

    Your arguement will be that smoking is a choice and being gay isn't. Perhaps you're correct. To that, I counter that one may be genetically predisposed to heart disease. If that shows up on a medical report being used to purchase insurance, the purchaser will pay higher rates. Now did that purchaser "choose" to be genetically at risk for heart disease? I think not.

    So tell me where I'm wrong with this arguement?

    April 3, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  21. Roland

    Ahhhhh the religious right. I thought this was a free country where we have choices. I am not gay but leave them alone to make their own lives. We love to to go to other countries to dictate our policies and now we feel that religion should dictate policy in this country to a minority who bothers no one.

    April 3, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  22. Helen, NY

    I think there should be amendment to the constitution banning same-sex marriage. This is a disgrace and immoral act by these few people and the judges. Democrats in power everywhere so there is no morality and discipline. Everything goes and ACLU must be celebrating.
    Only Iowans can come forward now and end this stupid ruling. Wake up Iowa, Wake up America. We must keep our family values and the marriage is between a man and a woman. No judge and nobody can change it.

    April 3, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  23. Michelle

    Sweet!! This is awesome news!

    April 3, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  24. Lawrence in a traditional marriage

    I suppose next up will be brother-sister marriages. And then human and farm animals. And perhaps, humans and inanimate objects could be a possibility. Our country's moral compass is broken.

    This is "One nation, UNDER GOD" and God does not recognize same sex "MARRIAGES" "Marriage" is a RELIGIOUS AND LEGAL UNION OF A MAN AND A WOMAN - If the country wants same sex civil unions, that is another story to be debated, but marriage is a sacrament received in the Church and same sex partners ought not to be INSULTING and DEBASING our Christian beliefs. I disagree with same sex civil unions, as do 90% of the country – if they are all true Christians – but there can be no argument that Marriage is a holy religious union between a man and a woman, and gays and lesbians have no business "crashing the holy altars of our churches. God Bless America. Amen

    April 3, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  25. L Rivera

    We are progressing our way to the ancient Rome just before the fall of that empire.

    April 3, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
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