Gay Marriage | Iowa | News

Iowa Supreme Court Unanimous in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage


It's a great day for equality. Summary and opinion PDFs posted below.

The Des Moines Register reports:

"The Iowa Supreme Court this morning struck down a 1998 state law that limits marriage to one man and one woman. The ruling is viewed as a victory for the gay rights movement in Iowa and elsewhere, and a setback for social conservatives who wanted to protect traditional families. The decision makes Iowa the first Midwestern state, and the fourth nationwide, to allow same-sex marriages. Lawyers for Lambda Legal, a gay rights group that financed the court battle and represented the couples, had hoped to use a court victory to demonstrate acceptance of same-sex marriage in heartland America. Richard Socarides, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay civil rights, said today’s decision could set the stage for other states. Socarides was was a senior political assistant for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin in the early 1990s. 'I think it’s significant because Iowa is considered a Midwest sate in the mainstream of American thought,' Socarides said. 'Unlike states on the coasts, there’s nothing more American than Iowa. As they say during the presidential caucuses, 'As Iowa goes, so goes the nation.’'"

Supreme A surge of interest in the ruling crashed the Supreme Court's web servers at about 8:20 this morning, ten minutes before the ruling was set to go online.

Wrote the court in a memo: "In a unanimous decision, the Iowa Supreme Court today held 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.  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.   Today’s ruling resolves an action brought by six same-sex couples who were refused marriage licenses by the Polk County Recorder.  Except for the statutory restriction that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, the twelve plaintiffs met the legal requirements to marry in Iowa. "

Read the SUMMARY [pdf].

Read the OPINION [pdf].

Justin Uebelhor, director of communications for One Iowa, the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered advocacy group, told the Des Moines Register it's likely same-sex couples won't be allowed to marry for a few months because state governments need time to put the new regulations in place: "Typically, it’s not immediate, and that’s most likely what we’d be looking at in Iowa."

UPDATE: I've been informed that same-sex couples will be able to begin marrying in 21 days.

The ruling affirmed Polk County Judge Robert Hanson's August 2007 ruling which declared the state's law forbidding same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Tim McQuillan and Sean Fritz, both Iowa State University students at the time, were the only gay couple married in the state before the ruling was stayed at the county's request.

According to Lambda Legal, the earliest any challenge to this would be able to get to a ballot is 2012 and legislators are currently not inclined to support it. Also non-Iowans can be married in Iowa.


This is a joint statement from Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy on today's Supreme Court decision:

Gronstal_murphy "Thanks to today's decision, Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing all of our citizens' equal rights. The court has ruled today that when two Iowans promise to share their lives together, state law will respect that commitment, regardless of whether the couple is gay or straight. When all is said and done, we believe the only lasting question about today's events will be why it took us so long.  It is a tough question to answer because treating everyone fairly is really a matter of Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency. Today, the Iowa Supreme Court has reaffirmed those Iowa values by ruling that gay and lesbian Iowans have all the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship as any other Iowan. Iowa has always been a leader in the area of civil rights. In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected slavery in a decision that found that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped on Iowa soil, 26 years before the end of the Civil War decided the issue. In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated 'separate but equal' schools had no place in Iowa, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision. In 1873, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against racial discrimination in public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision. In 1869, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law. In the case of recognizing loving relationships between two adults, the Iowa Supreme Court is once again taking a leadership position on civil rights.  Today, we congratulate the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws.

I'll be adding news reports, more reactions, and relevant video, AFTER THE JUMP...

Video reports: NBC News, MSNBC Breaking News, Message from openly gay state senator Matt McCoy...


Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Camilla Taylor:

"Today's victory is a testament to the strength of love, hope and courage — our clients have shown an abundance of all three for many years and now at long last they will be able to marry. This will go down as another proud day in Iowa's long history of protecting individual rights."

New York's Empire State Pride Agenda:

Pride_agenda "We are thrilled that the Iowa Supreme Court has done the right thing and ended discrimination against thousands of loving, committed same-sex couples by allowing them access to the literally hundreds of protections that come with marriage. We are happy that another state has joined Massachusetts and Connecticut in declaring that nothing short of full marriage equality will put an end to the hardships that many of our families experience on a daily basis. New Yorkers can now go to yet another state, get a marriage license that will be recognized as legal and valid here at home and have access to the vast majority of the 1,324 rights and responsibilities New York provides with it. We believe, however, that our families should not have to leave New York to get married; we should be able to get married here at home with our families and friends around us. Governor Paterson, the New York State Assembly and a majority of New Yorkers agree that it is time to do this. So too do both of our U.S. Senators, Attorney General Cuomo and Comptroller DiNapoli. The State Senate needs to get on board now with everyone else and pass marriage equality legislation this year."

GLAAD's Neil Giuliano:

"Today's ruling affirms that loving, committed gay and lesbian couples should no longer be excluded from marriage. GLAAD congratulates and expresses our deepest appreciation to One Iowa, Lambda Legal, the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, and the other organizations, leaders and courageous couples whose work and perseverance culminated in today's ruling. GLAAD urges local and national media reporting on this historic story to ground their coverage in the stories of the Iowa couples whose enduring commitment is at the heart of today's decision."

Human Rights Campaign's Joe Solmonese:

"This is a truly historic day for Iowa and a proud day for every American who believes in the promise of equal rights and fairness for all. The Iowa Supreme Court did its job by recognizing that gay and lesbian couples who form committed relationships and loving families deserve the same level of respect afforded to heterosexual couples.  The unanimous court made forcefully clear that the state constitution guarantees the same rights and protections for all Iowans. This decision strengthens Iowa families and makes a strong statement for equality all across the nation."

Rea Carey, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

"This ruling marks another watershed moment in the struggle for full equality. No longer will same-sex couples have their relationships treated as less than equal by the state. The court rightly affirmed that no loving committed couple should be denied marriage and the critical protections only marriage can provide. This ruling also affirms our common humanity by providing same-sex couples with the opportunity to participate in the shared hopes and dreams of making a public commitment to the person they love. We are thrilled that equality has come to Iowa!"

Feed This post's comment feed


  1. there is hope.

    Posted by: philster | Apr 3, 2009 9:49:33 AM

  2. Oh yes! I know majority of people think Iowa is just fly over country. But at least I can get married in my state. I hope one day all states can.

    Posted by: Brian | Apr 3, 2009 9:54:05 AM

  3. Wow! Just Wow!!!

    Posted by: Darren | Apr 3, 2009 9:54:06 AM

  4. As a Chicagoan, I hope and expect that my state will follow our neighbor's admirable decision....

    Posted by: Sid | Apr 3, 2009 9:54:59 AM

  5. Iowa also surprised us all by supporting our new President in the primaries. That little state in the heartland is singlehandedly changing America.

    Posted by: JTlvr | Apr 3, 2009 9:58:39 AM

  6. I am a straight married man from Iowa that reads this blog and I just want to say that I have NEVER been more proud of my state than I am at this very moment.

    Well done, Iowa.

    Posted by: Dan | Apr 3, 2009 10:00:18 AM

  7. Stunning way to start the weekend. Are you paying attention Vermont, Maine, New Jersey and California?

    (Not to mention all the other states and commonwealths...)

    Bloody well done!!!!

    Posted by: ichabod | Apr 3, 2009 10:00:46 AM

  8. I am so happy to be from Iowa. Illinois is next, baby!

    Posted by: David | Apr 3, 2009 10:01:06 AM

  9. So proud of my home state. Also very happy that only a legislature-initiated constitutional amendment could change this - and that would take at least 2, and more likely 3 years. I doubt they could get a judge to stay the ruling that long. Go Hawks!

    Posted by: Jim | Apr 3, 2009 10:02:14 AM

  10. Hurray for Iowa! BUT: "Unlike states on the coasts, there’s nothing more American than Iowa." What the F is that supposed to mean? I don't think he intended it the way it sounds, but c'mon Mr. Socarides... think before you speak. We can celebrate this victory in Iowa without denegrating the "Americanness" of the coasts, yes?

    Posted by: darbnyc | Apr 3, 2009 10:02:24 AM

  11. This fight is not over. Marriage can be taken away from us by our fellow citizens, no matter how many court cases we win. Our foes have hopes as well.

    Posted by: Yeek | Apr 3, 2009 10:02:25 AM

  12. This is HUGE... The First state in the midwest... and the FIrst Supreme Court ruling that was unanimous! Proud to be an Iowan!

    Posted by: Brian JD | Apr 3, 2009 10:04:03 AM

  13. Someone in the House Blend chat uploaded the opinion to rapidshare.

    Posted by: Addie | Apr 3, 2009 10:05:22 AM

  14. Darren

    LOL ditto

    exactly my same thoughts when I saw the headline

    "WOW. Iowa = WOW!"

    Posted by: Jimmyboyo | Apr 3, 2009 10:11:40 AM

  15. As an Iowa resident I hope this decision helps to dispell the notion that many people on the coasts have that we are all pig farmers out here in fly-over country.

    Posted by: Michael | Apr 3, 2009 10:13:42 AM

  16. I read the pertinent sections of the Iowa Constitution last night and really couldn't figure out how they could come up with another ruling. The Iowa Constitution is crystal clear on equality.

    The elephant in the room that these bigots refuse to acknowledge of course is that they DO NOT consider gay people equal. They consider us as sexual deviants and perverts that society must be protected from. Of course they know if they spew their hate speech, that will turn off the vast majority who believe in live and let live. So, instead they use coded spin words (like protect marriage, children, etc) and other double speak to trick folks to side with them.

    The focus now returns to California and what the Supreme Court will do regarding Prop 8? Hopefully, they will rule that the majority does not have power to remove rights from a minority. The great protection in all constitutions is equality under the law. The majority is free to pass all kinds of laws, but those laws must also apply to themselves.

    Congratulations Iowa - unfortunately now, the hate robo calls shift to you.

    Posted by: Mike | Apr 3, 2009 10:16:09 AM

  17. Great news! Let's not forget to support our brothers and sisters in Iowa as they take the lead in fighting back the wingnuts there. But today we celebrate with them!

    Posted by: Patrick | Apr 3, 2009 10:22:00 AM

  18. Well I guess that makes NY (and I'm from here) the new flyover state between Iowa and Europe!

    Posted by: Dan | Apr 3, 2009 10:32:34 AM

  19. I've so proud to be from Iowa.

    Posted by: audiored | Apr 3, 2009 10:39:41 AM

  20. Iowa rocks :]

    Lambda Legal deserves so much credit for gay rights.

    Posted by: anonymous | Apr 3, 2009 10:39:52 AM

  21. I wish I didn't live in a world where I had to thank someone for recognizing that I am a human being, but I thank the Iowa Supreme Court for leading the great state of Iowa into the 21st century!

    "Deep in my heart, I do believe..."

    Posted by: bgbaysjr | Apr 3, 2009 10:44:38 AM

  22. This is good news, but I'm upset Socarides would say something as clumsy as: "Unlike states on the coasts, there’s nothing more American than Iowa"

    Posted by: St. Theresa of Avila | Apr 3, 2009 10:49:09 AM

  23. I think it's wonderful that the first UNANIMOUS ruling on marriage equality came from Iowa.

    Posted by: tjc | Apr 3, 2009 10:49:41 AM

  24. Incredibly great news!

    Posted by: marq | Apr 3, 2009 10:49:41 AM

  25. Being from Iowa, I am happy about this of course. Part of me wants to ask what I tell my friends when they ask why I'm not going to get married? Remember folks, you can get married in Iowa but when you drive over the border to any state... what are you then? Plus, I can be married in my state but not recognized federally? That is not okay. The only reason to get married would be to show the public just how many gay people there are out there. Of course the census isn't helping in that respect. I would still be unmarried co-habitating, right?!

    Posted by: Mary | Apr 3, 2009 10:51:07 AM

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