Iowa reaction to Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality

In a 5-4 decision announced Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states and ordered state governments to recognize same-sex marriages performed anywhere in the country. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Obergefell v Hodges, joined by Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer. Each of the dissenting justices wrote a separate opinion; all are available in this pdf file after Kennedy’s opinion. Amy Howe explained the majority opinion in "Plain English" while Lyle Denniston posted a brief analysis.

Follow me after the jump for Iowa reaction on both sides of the marriage debate. Two years ago, Bleeding Heartland compiled Iowa politicians’ comments on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Windsor, which struck down the federal ban on same-sex marriages but left state bans intact.

As a group, Iowa Democratic politicians are more enthusiastic and less cautious about welcoming marriage equality now than was the case in 2009, when the Iowa Supreme Court struck down our state’s Defense of Marriage Act. Many Iowa Republicans called for elected officials to overturn the 2009 Varnum v Brien ruling by passing a constitutional amendment, but reacting to the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling, few in the Iowa GOP sounded hopeful that there was any chance to reinstate state bans on same-sex marriage.

I will update this post as needed.  

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Weekend open thread: Love and marriage equality edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? I’m not big on "Hallmark holidays," but if Valentine’s Day (or "co-opting Valentine’s Day") is your thing, I hope you enjoyed February 14. This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

I wanted to catch up on news from a couple of weeks ago, which may continue to reverberate during the Republican Iowa caucus campaign. The owners of Görtz Haus agreed to settle with a gay couple who had wanted to get married at their venue in Grimes. Betty and Richard Odgaard are Mennonites who don’t believe in same-sex marriage. Since the law doesn’t allow them to discriminate against LGBT couples, they have decided not to hold any weddings at their place of business. They also dropped their own doomed-to-fail lawsuit against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Clips with background on the episode and reaction to its resolution are after the jump.

Social conservatives are outraged over what they see as an assault on religious freedom. Both talk radio host Steve Deace and Bob Vander Plaats’ organization The FAMiLY Leader have indicated that the Görtz Haus controversy will be a salient issue in the coming presidential campaign.

What these folks can’t acknowledge is that no one is forcing the Odgaards or anyone else to approve of or “celebrate” gay weddings. Many of us have ethical or religious objections to some marriages; for instance, if the couple began dating while married to other people, or if one person appears to be marrying solely for money, or if there is a large age gap between the spouses. Plenty of Jews and Christians would disapprove of my own interfaith marriage. No one is demanding that the whole world applaud every marriage, only that the religious beliefs of some don’t interfere with the civil rights of others.

Additionally, it’s important to note that no house of worship in Iowa has ever been forced to hold same-sex weddings. If the Odgaards ran a church, they would be fully within their rights to refuse to serve LGBT couples. Görtz Haus is a for-profit business, subject to the same civil rights statutes as other public venues.  

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HIV transmission bill passes in end-of-session surprise

Sometimes bills left for dead rise again in the final hours of the Iowa legislature’s work. So it was for Senate File 2297, an "act relating to the criminal transmission of a contagious or infectious disease." If signed into law, this bill would replace current Iowa law on HIV transmission, under which a person can be sentenced to 25 years in prison, even if the virus that causes AIDS was not transmitted to anyone. For background on the old law, one of the harshest in the country, click here or here, or listen to this Iowa Public Radio program from March. (Incidentally, the Iowa Supreme Court has heard but not yet ruled on a case related to that law but not challenging its constitutionality.)

Whereas current law takes a “one size fits all” approach to HIV transmission cases, Senate File 2297 outlines more serious penalties for those who intentionally infect a partner (not just with HIV, but with any communicable disease) than for those who either didn’t mean to transmit or did not transmit a disease. In addition,

under the new bill, Iowans would no longer be sentenced as sex offenders and a retroactive clause in the bill would remove anyone sentenced under 709c from the sex offender registry. Prosecutors would also have to prove substantial risk, rather than the current law which simply requires non-disclosure.

Senate File 2297 passed the Iowa Senate unanimously in February. Democratic State Senator Rob Hogg said it would update Iowa law to reflect modern medicine and replace a “badly outdated and draconian” part of the code. Republican State Senator Charles Schneider agreed that current law was “not always proportionate” to the crime committed.

So far, so good. But instead of sailing through the Iowa House, Senate File 2297 stalled. It cleared a House Judiciary Subcommittee but not the full committee in time for the “second funnel” deadline in mid-March. The bill landed on the “unfinished business” calendar, which kept it eligible for debate.

I hadn’t heard anything about this bill for some time, until I saw this morning that it came up for debate in Iowa House a little before 2 am. It passed by 98 votes to 0. After the jump I’ve posted a statement from the LGBT advocacy group One Iowa, which has pushed for similar legislation for years.  

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Patty Judge named to Iowa Women's Hall of Fame

Congratulations are in order to former Lieutenant Governor and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge, one of four women to be inducted to the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame at the State Historical Building on August 24. The Iowa Commission on the Status of Women selects four women for the honor each year. You can read about all the hall of famers here.

After the jump I’ve posted an excerpt from the commission’s announcement, including short bios of Judge and the three other inductees for 2013: Dr. Mary Louise Sconiers Chapman, a superstar advocate for vulnerable populations; Barbara Mack, a journalism legend who passed away last year; and Dr. Deborah Ann Turner, who has advocated for education and social justice as an attorney as well as a medical doctor.

This year’s winner of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women’s Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice is Sharon Malheiro, founder and board president of the LGBT advocacy group One Iowa. As an attorney, Malheiro has represented employers in several important workplace discrimination cases as well as being involved in Iowa’s most notable court cases relating to marriage equality. Her short bio is after the jump as well. You can view the list of past Cristine Wilson Medal recipients here. Governor Terry Branstad won in 1999, shortly after he retired from politics.

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Another Iowa Supreme Court ruling for equality (updated)

In a decision announced on Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for the Iowa Department of Public Health to refuse to list a non-birthing lesbian spouse on a child’s birth certificate. Details on this nearly unanimous ruling are after the jump. I was intrigued by how Governor Terry Branstad’s three appointees from 2011 handled this case.

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Troy Price becoming Iowa Democratic Party executive director

The Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee met today in Des Moines to rubber-stamp the election of State Representative Tyler Olson as state party chair for the next two-year cycle. No other candidates were considered for the position. Bleeding Heartland posted background on Olson here. Although the Republican Party of Iowa is dysfunctional in many ways, I prefer their method for choosing a party leader. There’s no reason not to have multiple candidates speak publicly to the state central committee about the party’s pressing tasks and what strengths they would bring to the top job.

Also today, the Iowa Democratic Party announced that Troy Price will be the new executive director. He replaces Norm Sterzenbach, who held that position for six years. Price worked for Governors Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver and later became executive director of the LGBT advocacy group One Iowa. He left that group to serve as political director for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in Iowa.

Olson and Price have their work cut out for them, with an open U.S. Senate seat to defend and a tough race against Governor Terry Branstad in a midterm election year. The Obama campaign ran a fantastic ground game, but no database or micro-targeting expertise will magically transform a midterm electorate into the presidential-year electorate more friendly to Democratic candidates.

The Iowa Democratic Party’s press release announcing its new officers is after the jump. Any relevant thoughts are welcome in this thread.

Free advice for the IDP’s leadership team: don’t invite the media to cover your Soviet-style election if you’re going to kick them out as soon as things get interesting.

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