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.  

Statement from Senator Chuck Grassley:

“Traditional marriage has been a pillar of our society for thousands of years-one that has remained constant across cultures, even with the rise and fall of nations.  I believe marriage is between one man and one woman.  Marriage is a sacred institution.  Its definition should not be subject to the whims of the Supreme Court where five justices appointed to interpret the Constitution instead imposed social and political values inconsistent with the text of the Constitution and the framers’ intent.  Today’s decision robs the right of citizens to define marriage through the democratic process.

“Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision, everyone deserves to be treated with respect and nobody should have their deeply-held religious beliefs trampled by their government. Although the decision is the law of the land, at least for now, history has taught us that a cultural debate like this one will not be settled with this ruling. I expect we will be debating marriage for years to come.”

Statement from Senator Joni Ernst:

“I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision and its failure to recognize the freedom of our states to make their own decisions about their respective marriage laws.

“While it is my personal belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, I maintain that this is an issue best handled at the state level.”

Neither Ernst nor Grassley posted anything about the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling on their social media accounts.

Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02) released this statement:

“Iowans are no strangers to being on the forefront of fighting for greater civil rights. We have long strived for equality, whether it is based on race, gender or sexual orientation. That is why I am thrilled that the Supreme Court today struck down state laws that discriminate against gay and lesbian couples, effectively legalizing marriage between two people of the same sex nationwide. This is a momentous day in civil rights history, and I am so happy that same-sex couples are one important step closer to the equality they deserve.”

Loebsack posted a pro-equality meme along with the following message on his campaign Facebook page:

Today’s Supreme Court decision to legalize same sex marriage is a HUGE victory for all Americans! Now we must continue the ongoing fight to expand civil rights. #LoveWins

Representative Steve King (R, IA-04) released a video statement:

Radio Iowa posted highlights from King’s statement:

“If gay marriage is to be the policy of this land – that needs to be a decision made by the people through their elected representatives – not by judicial fiat,” King says. In a video statement, King says this court decision is like the Dred Scott decision on slavery, and the other Supreme Court decisions that banned prayer in public schools and allowed abortion. “The Supreme Court has a terrible record in trying to transform our society and put an end to issues,” King says. “The only way we put an end to issues if it is the will of the people. It’s not the will of the people to have same-sex marriage. Now there is no reason to have civil marriage whatsoever.”

King says there’s a way to deal with the ruling. “So, I’m calling upon the states, just abolish civil marriage, let’s go back to holy matrimony the way it began. Do that alone,” King says. “And by the way, I want to send a message to the Supreme Court – a good strong message – and in the next days and weeks I will be introducing legislation to do just that.”

I have not seen any comment about the marriage decision from Representatives Rod Blum (R, IA-01) or David Young (R, IA-03).

Governor Terry Branstad didn’t send out a press release or post a comment on social media about the Supreme Court ruling, but the Des Moines Register published his reaction:

“Well, I’m disappointed with the court’s decision. This, of course, happened in the state of Iowa in 2009. I just think the people should have had a chance to vote on this instead of what the court did. But this is the law and unfortunately, this was the decision they made.”

Press release from the Iowa Democratic Party:

IDP Celebrates Marriage Equality Ruling

Des Moines-Iowa Democratic Party Chair Dr. Andy McGuire released the following statement after the Supreme Court ruled this morning that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states:  

“This is an incredible day for equality, for justice, and for our loving families all across Iowa and the entire country. Iowa was one of the first states to recognize marriage equality, and I’m thrilled that now same-sex couples in all 50 states will be able to celebrate their love and receive their deserved equal rights and protections under the law. While the 2016 GOP field continues to want to move us backwards, the Supreme Court confirmed what Iowans already knew: we are a more inclusive, stronger and better place when we side with equality over discrimination.”

Press release from the Republican Party of Iowa:

DES MOINES – The Iowa GOP released the following statements in response to the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling today.

Statement from Co-Chair Cody Hoefert: “We believe, and still believe, that marriage is between one man and one woman. The Supreme Court’s decision changed law by fiat and unfortunately continued this Court’s history of legislating from the bench.”

Statement from Chairman Jeff Kaufmann: “The recent Supreme Court decisions have only proven once again that we must redouble our effort to elect a Republican to the White House in 2016 — one who will nominate judges who respect the different roles of our three branches.”

Press release from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office:

Miller Statement on Obergefell v. Hodges Decision

Miller: Supreme Court decision ensures “equality, dignity and protection under the law”

(DES MOINES, Iowa) Attorney General Tom Miller released the following statement regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority decision Friday that same-sex marriage is a fundamental constitutional right guaranteed under the 14th Amendment:

“Today, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court wrote a powerful decision that ensures equality, dignity and protection under the law for same-sex couples across the country. These are rights that same-sex couples in Iowa have enjoyed since 2009 because of the Iowa Supreme Court’s thoughtful and courageous Varnum decision. But even those couples and their families faced legal uncertainties if they traveled or moved to other states. Now it is clear throughout the land that same-sex couples have constitutionally-guaranteed equal access to the institution of marriage.”

Democratic State Senator Matt McCoy, who was the only openly gay member of the Iowa legislature at the time of the Varnum decision, posted this comment on the Supreme Court’s latest ruling.

Today the United States Supreme Court spoke in favor of strengthening all American Families. Its ruling reaffirms equal protection under our laws for everyone. They got it right.

Today the United States Constitution has been upheld in protecting equal protection for all. Not just some, but equality for all.

Today is a triumph for love, for families, and for children.

McCoy was a speaker at the pro-equality rally outside the Iowa Supreme Court building in Des Moines on the evening of June 26. Click through to watch the video.

The LGBT advocacy group One Iowa released this statement:

VICTORY for Equality!

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States announced its ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges – and the constitutionality of marriage for same-gender couples was decided. With a 5-4 ruling the Court affirmed that the Fourteenth Amendment does require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex.

Same gender couples across the nation will now enjoy over 1,100 federal and state benefits previously denied to them. All states will be required to allow same-sex couples to marry.

One Iowa Executive Director Donna Red Wing made the following statement marking today’s rulings from the Supreme Court:

“This is an historic marriage equality case. It is an enormous victory and a joyous day for loving, married couples and their families across this nation. Today, the Supreme Court recognized the validity of our families by allowing them to fully share in the freedom to marry. For thousands of gay and lesbian couples, this means that they can better protect one another and their children because they will finally be included in the federal and state safety nets of marriage, with more than 1,100 federal benefits from which they were previously excluded. It means that these loving couples are now accorded the same rights and responsibilities as any other. We celebrate the fact that same-gender couples can now legally marry across the United States. Our nation’s highest court stood on the right side of history today, demonstrating why our courts matter.”

One Iowa Executive Director Donna Red Wing will be available for comment today. In addition, married same-sex couples and community leaders throughout the state will also be available. Statewide rallies planned for this evening are listed here.

In addition to the event outside the Iowa Supreme Court building, One Iowa organized rallies in Davenport, Iowa City, Mason City, Sioux City, and Waterloo.

The ACLU of Iowa released this statement on behalf of Executive Director Jeremy Rosen.

 “It has been a long and winding road to marriage equality. In 1936, the ACLU brought its first LGBT rights case. Then In 1976, the ACLU of Iowa brought what we believe was the first marriage equality lawsuit in this state. We filed a petition on behalf of Tracy Bjorgum and Kenneth Bunch, two men who were denied a marriage license in Polk County. The petition was unsuccessful, but it was the opening round in a long struggle toward marriage equality.

In 2009, we filed a friend-of-court brief in the historic Varnum v. Brien, which made Iowa one of the first states to recognize marriage equality.

Now, 39 years later, the ACLU is seeing national victory for marriage equality in the U.S. Supreme Court, serving as counsel in the Ohio (Obergefell v. Hodges) and Kentucky (Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear) cases.

This is a momentous win for freedom, equality, inclusion, and above all, love. We can celebrate that ours is a country that keeps its promise of the pursuit of happiness, liberty, and justice for all.Yet there remains much more work to be done. We will continue to fight for an Iowa and a country in which LGBTQ people can live openly and identities, relationships, and families are respected, and where there is fair treatment on the job and in schools, housing, public places, and health care.”

Republican State Senator Jason Schultz was among many conservatives who compared the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage with the infamous Dred Scott decision.

“Just like the Supreme Court ruled before the Civil War, saying that fugitive slaves had to be returned, the Supreme Court got this completely wrong, and once again for the same reason: they denied natural law and the natural order of things, and they decided to replace the rule of nature’s god with the rule of man, and it’ll probably have same effect.”

The FAMiLY Leader organization also made the Dred Scott comparison in their lengthy statement on the ruling:

Supreme Court unravels definition of marriage

Today’s Supreme Court opinion, saying the 14th Amendment “requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex,” is not good for America.

The Court succumbed to demands to invent a new constitutional “right” (to same-sex “marriage”) never imagined by our Founders nor “endowed by our Creator.”

The Court did not so much redefine marriage, as it worked to undefine it altogether, to separate the institution from its anchor in the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” leaving future courts no legal basis for disqualifying any number of relationships from being called a “marriage.”

Furthermore, the Court’s decision was a judicial assault on the separation of powers and the American form of government. At the heart of every American liberty is the freedom for all Americans to democratically address the most pressing social issues of the day.

And yet the Supreme Court overrode the judgment of over 50 million Americans who recently voted to reaffirm natural marriage as the union of a man and a woman. By elevating itself to the sole arbiter of determining policy, the Court is effectively stripping all Americans of our freedom to debate and decide major issues through the democratic process.

Nonetheless, the Supreme Court’s opinion won’t end society’s discussion about the future of marriage and laws affecting the family.

When the Supreme Court handed down the Dred Scott decision, for example, it didn’t end the debate about slavery, but only intensified it. Roe v. Wade didn’t end the debate over abortion, for we’re still working through it today. Likewise, Obergefell v. Hodges, doesn’t end the debate, but only stirs it.

In fact, Obergefell v. Hodges throws a blazing spotlight on three issues, which will become major focuses, not only during this election cycle, but for years to come:

The definition of marriage

First and most obviously, how we as a culture define marriage is suddenly up for debate. On what grounds, for example, can polygamy now be excluded from the legal definition of “marriage”?

The FAMiLY LEADER will remain committed to holding up the gold standard of God’s design for the family, affirming the right of every child to be raised by both mother and father, and promoting a view of marriage that prioritizes children’s needs over adults’ desires. We believe neither Court nor public opinion can change the truth that the union of a man and a woman is the only objective definition of marriage that produces human flourishing.

Help The FAMiLY LEADER continue to stand strong for God’s design and your freedoms by making a donation today!

Religious liberty

Second, calling same-sex “marriage” a legal “right” starkly contrasts with those who believe it’s a moral wrong.

As we’ve already seen in places where same-sex “marriages” are performed, men and women of faith who have attempted to live out their convictions have been met with derision, fines, lawsuits, the force of government, and the loss of their livelihood.

The FAMiLY LEADER believes Americans should be free to live and work according to their faith without fear of being unjustly punished by their government. Religious liberty must be defended. A government with unchecked power to intrude on any citizen’s freedom is a threat to everyone’s freedom.

The role of the courts

Third, Obergefell v. Hodges raises the question of the proper role of the courts. Is America still a land of representative democracy and the rule of law, or is it governed by an oligarchy of unelected officials in black robes?

Even during oral arguments of the case, Justice Antonin Scalia noted the underlying question: “The issue, of course, is not whether there should be same-sex marriage, but who should decide the point. … And you’re asking us to decide it for this society.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy further recognized the gravity of the power the Court was asked to wield: “This definition [of marriage] has been with us for millennia. … And it’s very difficult for the Court to say, ‘Oh, well, we … we know better.'”

Whether the Court should have the authority to make such decisions for society and to decide it does “know better” in such monumental matters – and how the other branches of government and “We the People” should respond when the Court oversteps its authority – will be a critical debate in America in the coming years.

Ideally, the Court should only serve as a check and balance if the other branches or the people clearly violate the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God. In today’s opinion, the court didn’t defend the Law of Nature and Nature’s God; the judges acted as if they are God. Very disturbing for all of America!

Discover ways you can partner with The FAMiLY LEADER by visiting our Action Center today!

The head of the FAMiLY Leader group, Bob Vander Plaats, told the Des Moines Register,

“Now, everything is up for grabs, meaning the polygamists, they now have an argument. People who want to bring polygamy back, they now have an argument.”

Former State Representative Ed Fallon, who was the only member of the Iowa legislature to vote against this state’s Defense of Marriage Act during the 1990s, celebrated with other supporters of equality outside the Iowa Supreme Court building in Des Moines.

Current Democratic lawmakers including State Senators Joe Bolkcom and Bob Dvorsky and State Representatives Dave Jacoby, Vicki Lensing, and Mary Mascher joined the celebrations in Iowa City. CORRECTION: John Deeth notes that State Representative Mary Mascher was unable to attend and sent regrets. Johnson County elected officials pictured here: attorney Janet Lyness, North Liberty mayor Amy Nielsen, supervisor Rod Sullivan, recorder Kim Painter, auditor Travis Weipert, and supervisor Janelle Rettig.

Former State Representative Nate Willems, who was part of the Iowa House Democratic majority in 2009, shared this comment via e-mail:

I remember the day in 2009 when Iowa House Republicans forced a vote on their plan for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions. I told Ray Zirkelbach that I was going to be away from my desk to force the Speaker to call out my name. That way, I could hold out my arm with thumb down causing the speaker to individually state my vote. Ray thought that was a good idea and said he would join me.

I then forgot about my great idea and when the vote came Ray had to grab me and say, “Nate, get over here.” Ray and I stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the front of the House chamber, each holding our arms out with our thumbs down waiting to get the Speaker’s attention. Speaker Murphy said, “Zirkelbach votes no. Willems votes no.” Just two Jones County guys who, honestly, never thought much about gay marriage when we first decided to run for the Legislature. We were put on the spot on gay marriage before most. But that moment came and I am as proud of that vote as any I ever cast.

We remember the three justices who were not retained in the subsequent election.  We sometimes forget that thirteen Democratic state representatives were also defeated in 2010, including my friend Ray Zirkelbach.  There are a myriad of reasons for these outcomes.  However, I think it is safe to say that voting for marriage equality in 2009 did not help a person retain their seat in 2010.

Iowa House Democrats had their challenges in hanging together on controversial issues as the majority party in 2009.  We had a few good moments, but defeating the Republican attempts to write discrimination into the Constitution of Iowa tops the list.

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  • Small correction

    Politicians pictured are: County attorney Janet Lyness, North Liberty mayor Amy Nielsen (blocking) supervisor Rod Sullivan, Rep. Dave Jacoby, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, Sen. Bob Dvorsky, Rep. Vicki Lensing, recorder Kim Painter, auditor Travis Weipert, and supervisor Janelle Rettig. Swisher mayor Christopher Taylor and Kingsley Botchway of the Iowa City council were on hand at other points in the evening.

    Mary Mascher was not present and sent regrets – was at a conference out of town. Mary’s been a decades-long supporter on LGBT issues. Sally Stutsman is at the same conference and Kevin Kinney is fishing in Canada. No word on the other member of the Johnson County delegation, Bobby Kaufmann.