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. James

    So basically they are saying the" will of the people" no longer matters and that a minority of people can control the majority?

    April 3, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    @ Bob from Pittsburgh, who said "Marriage is a RELIGIOUS ceremony. Civil Union is a LEGAL status."

    OK, let's assume that's true for second, just to go along with your premise. Taking your distinction as fact, please explain why the government should be involved in codifying laws that have anything do with MARRIAGE (s you defined it).

    April 3, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  3. dmcd

    100 years ago the majority of the population did not think it was right for people to marry outside of their religion... now it is common and accepted by the majority.
    50 years ago there were violent outbreaks over interracial marriage and the majority of Americans believed that interracial marriage was wrong... now it is common and accepted by the majority.
    Today, due to a wide variety of factors (religion, bigotry, ignorance, etc.), the majority of Americans do not believe gay marriage should be allowed. But it will be allowed, because to tell a man he can marry any woman he wants, but can not marry any man is simply not equal.
    The vast majority of the arguments against gay marriage are ideological. The vast majority of the arguments for gay marriage are about treating each person in the country equally.

    Personally, I think the term marriage should be removed from all govt. and tax documents. Any union recognized by a state or federal govt. should be called a civil union. If the couple also decides to enter a marriage, that can be their spiritual commitment to each other, and can include a religious ceremony.

    If we had a true separation of church and state, this would be a moot point.

    April 3, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  4. Sandy

    We just need to make a national law on this, and to stop allowing states to do as they please....

    April 3, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  5. Robert

    This is a just and wonderful ruling, which will strengthen the institution of marriage for ALL by giving more people a stake in its responsibilities, privileges, and protections.

    No state has any business imposing religion-based bigotry on its laws and citizens. If churches want to continue discriminating based on a superficial, flawed, innaccurate reading of the Bible, that's their problem.

    April 3, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. Lauren in IOWA!!!

    I live in Des Moines and when I heard the news on the radio this morning driving to school I was so excited for all the same sex couples in this state that now have equal rights! Just hoping the rest of the US starts to make the same decisions!
    I'm incredibly proud of our Supreme Court Judges with this UNANIMOUS ruling

    April 3, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  7. Mark

    The "tradition" of marriage is a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, taken as an oath before GOD "until death do you part". If you are going to limit marriage between a man and a woman, it should also be a LIFELONG commitment, NO DIVORCE with the exceptions as specified in the BIBLE. People who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman because that is the "traditional definition" or because that is what the Bible says, but also are divorced or believe in divorce are total, utter hypocrites. It is DIVORCE that is tearing up the fabric of the American family, not gay marriage.

    April 3, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  8. FreeNLovIT

    Go ahead! Come out of the closet!! I'm getting tired of living on earth. I want the Apocalypse to happen now!! The sooner we spiritually rot on earth, the sooner it will be the end of the world.

    April 3, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  9. Norom

    Kevin in Ohio April 3rd, 2009 11:17 am ET

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

    Discrimintation has no place in our constitution. Funny, it is only
    when the wingnuts don't agree that it is called "legistlating from the bench". Don't agree with gay marriage? Then don't marry a man. If
    marriage is so sacred, then lets start by making divorce illegal, shall we?

    April 3, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  10. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    When rights are denied to some, rights are denied to all.

    I feel if 2 people want to marry, where is the harm?

    What happens when someone wants to take the rights that you enjoy now??

    And this happens in Iowa? Great!

    April 3, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  11. Sam

    What puzzles me is that people can miss the most obvious principle of human life. MAN IS FOR WOMAN, and WOMAN IS FOR MAN. We sit around trying to define things and GOD has already defined it for us. Not necessarily through the bible or anything like that, but through our own physical attributes as humans. We can toil around forever with this subject should man be able to marry a man or should a woman marry a woman but its not going to go anywhere because poeple want to live out there on lustful desires. Its like saying we should allow people to murder one another, wouldn't that go against someones civil liberties? I mean come on people this is really simple. But hey there will come a day that people will have to answer to what they have done here on this earth and there will be nashing of teeth, why because people want to be God instead of letting God be himself!

    April 3, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  12. phoenix86

    Iowa, who gave Obama his start, takes another step towards self-destruction.

    April 3, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  13. WhoCares?

    Only a matter of time as the old bigoted hit the grave and the youth of the America start to become the guides for the future.

    April 3, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  14. Enlightened Voter

    Marriage should be allowed period. Why we continue to discriminate is beyond me, too many religious fanatics imposing their will on society I guess. I say let's ban religious fanatics.

    April 3, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  15. rand

    I'm impressed with Iowa's ruling and more states will follow suit. This blatant discrimination against a group of citizens is appalling.... Thanks to religious zealots and their lemmings.

    It is high time to recognize that those who still think homosexuality is a choice are ignorant. Those that feel one should repress their true nature are even more ignorant. Those that preach hatred and intolerance are the most ignorant.

    The basis of religion should be acceptance and love. Iowa's supreme court "gets it".

    April 3, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  16. irene

    thank you iowa.

    April 3, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  17. Minnesotan

    I may not understand entirely how this action was brought about, but it appears to me that if it were just left alone there wouldn't have been any action either way about whether same sex marriage is OK or Not and the status quo of hetero marriage only would have prevailed. By forcing the issue not only did the homophobes NOT manage to define marriage their way but they also now seem to have helped the Gay cause in defense of their rights to marry whomever they want.

    April 3, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  18. Enough

    Civil rights are lovingly worth upholding IMHO. Great day for Iowa.

    April 3, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  19. James

    Polygamy, polyandry and insest should also be legalized – who are we to tell other people what they can and can not do?

    Do what thau wilt and that be the whole of the law!

    April 3, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  20. Diane

    Kevin in Ohio April 3rd, 2009 11:17 am ET

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


    What gives you or anyone else the right to tell someone that they cannot marry the person they love simply because they are the same sex. It does not involve you in any way, shape, manner or form. Mind your own business and let those who wish to marry mind theirs.

    As long as it's a marriage between two consenting adults, let them alone.

    April 3, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  21. Steve, Chelsea, MI

    The same people that are against gay marriage now were against mixed ethnicity marriages in the past.

    Civil Rights are CIVIL RIGHTS.

    April 3, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  22. arithmetic is liberal

    Why is it that right wingers say that they're being discriminated against when they're not allowed to force their beliefs on other people?

    I believe that we should make every marriage in this country, gay or straight, a "contract of civil union" when registering with the state, and then leave it to the churches to decide who they want to marry.

    Also, once they take away the rights of the gays, how long do you really think it will it be until they come after divorcees, single parents, domestic partners, people who have 'fornicated' outside of marriage, et alia.?

    April 3, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  23. Mike

    I just dont get how gay people getting married changes straight people getting married. I think that's a really dumb argument.

    April 3, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  24. Proud Iowan

    I wasn't sure if this would pass, but my great state continues to impress me!

    April 3, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  25. Obamalism

    'marriage' shouldn't be part of our govt. It's a religious thing. If you want equal rights, then do it. Trampling the sanctity of marriage in the name of equal rights is stupid. They are not one in the same. It's like sueing over catholics not allowing females into the priesthood. Stop equating marriage with equal rights.

    If you want a valid argument... argue why you can't deem ANY PERSON you want to be your beneficiary...why does it have to be a spouse? why does it have to be a 'partner'???

    April 3, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
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