Attorney Dennis Johnson, arguing in favor of same-sex marriage before the Iowa Supreme Court
DES MOINES, Iowa – Oral arguments concluded today in a case to determine whether Iowa will become the fourth state in the country – after California, Massachusetts and Connecticut – to recognize same-sex marriage.
A state district judge ruled last year that Iowa’s laws prohibiting same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, but he shortly thereafter also issued a stay on his decision until appeals could be settled, setting up today’s showdown in the Iowa Supreme Court.
“The institution of marriage is not merely a concern for me or for you individually; the state has an interest in marriage,” argued Assistant Polk County Attorney Roger Kuhl today. “The state by fostering same-sex marriage will harm the institution of marriage as we know it.”
But Dennis Johnson, an attorney representing the six homosexual couples who originally filed the lawsuit, disagreed.
“If the same sex marriage couples in this courtroom are allowed to marry,” Johnson argued, “my marriage will not be affected at all.”
Several organizations also filed briefs in the case, including Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit legal organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family.
Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, commented on the case: “Virtually every court that has considered challenges to traditional marriage has correctly concluded that judges have no authority to rewrite the definition of marriage. Courts are not proselytizing engines of radical social change. Marriage between one man and one woman is a historically shared value that transcends time and cultures.”
The case heard before the Iowa Supreme Court today, Varnum, et al. v. Brien, stems from a 2005 lawsuit in which six same-sex couples who had been denied marriage licenses by the Polk county registrar sued the county and Registrar Timothy Brien.
The lawsuit claimed that the section of chapter 595 of the Iowa Code that states, “Only a marriage between a male and a female is valid,” is unconstitutional under the due process clause of the Iowa Constitution.
A few months after the lawsuit was filed, members of the Iowa Legislature filed a motion to intervene in the case.
“The definition of marriage, especially in terms of what relationships may obtain such legal status, is a public policy issue committed by law to the province of the Legislature,” claimed a group of 18 Iowa state representatives and senators. “It has always been the public policy of the State of Iowa that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”
Iowa’s Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Robert Hanson denied the legislators’ request to intervene and Aug. 30, 2007, declared Iowa’s law restricting marriage to one man and woman unconstitutional.
Hanson further released a 63-page opinion in which he declared that homosexuality is a “normal expression of human sexuality”; that being “gay” or lesbian poses no inherent obstacle to leading a happy, healthy life; that children raised by homosexual parents are just as well-adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents; and that by denying marriage to homosexual couples, the law does “great dignitary harm,” rendering homosexual couples second-class citizens and affixing to them both “the stigma historically attached to homosexuality” and “a badge of inferiority.”
KCCI-TV, Des Moines, reports that the Supreme Court typically takes two to six months to issue a decision.
Staver remains optimistic that the Court will rule in favor of traditional marriage.
“After listening to the questions and comments of the judges today,” Staver said in a statement, “I believe the Iowa Supreme Court will do the right thing and uphold the marriage laws.”