Debate Over Same Sex Marriage Amendments to Constitution in Iowa

At present the same sex marriage laws in Iowa are under debate with conservative political elements seeking to amend the constitution to make marriage between one man and one woman. The Supreme Court of Iowa had made same sex marriages on April 3, 2009 because of the devision in Varnum v. Brien. The case had arisen because same sex couples based in Polk County Iowa had been denied married licences by the local authority there. The Supreme Court overturned the decision on the basis of an interpretation of the marriage clause in the Iowan Constitution. Iowa therefore joined the only other two states in the United States to have legalised same sex marriage after Massachusetts and Connecticut had done so.

The basis of the decision was that the equal protection clause of the Iowa state constitution should apply to both same sex and heterosexual couples where the doctrine of ‘intermediate scrutiny’ is applied to evaluate the government’s justifications for denying marriage licenses. Although there was legal recognition of the same sex law amendments, it took some time for the Iowa Department of Public Health to amend its practices and there has been a movement in the legislature of Iowa to remove same sex marriage from the constitution which would eventually have to pass a referendum. Zach Wahls, a college student and son of a lesbian couple, addressed the Iowa House Judiciary Committee in a public hearing on January 31, 2011. On February 1, 2011, with Republicans in a majority in the Iowa House, the House passed House Joint Resolution 6 by a vote of 62-37.

Some of the other arguments in relation to same sex marriage involve economic arguments with a ULCA research project finding that the government would actually capture a net economic gain by allowing same sex unions because of reduced expenditure in government benefit programs and increases to the amount of tax received from sales tax. Between April 2009 and March 2010, 2,020 same-sex couples were married in Iowa, accounting for 10.1% of total marriages conducted in the state during that period. Only 815 couples were from Iowa, with the rest being from out of state, predominantly from neighboring Illinois, Missouri and Nebraska. If you are considering marriage on the basis of a same sex relationship in iowa or one of its surrounding states, there is some acceptance that out of state marriages can be recognised in Iowa under the same sex umbrella of Iowan law.

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