10 years of marriage equality in Iowa

Ten years ago today, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously held in Varnum v Brien that the state’s Defense of Marriage Act “violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.”

Justice Mark Cady wrote the opinion, which cost three of his colleagues (Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, Justice David Baker, and Justice Michael Streit) their jobs in the 2010 judicial retention elections. Assigned the task of writing by random drawing, Cady “strongly believed the court should speak in one voice” on such a controversial matter, Tom Witosky and Marc Hansen wrote in their 2015 book Equal Before the Law: How Iowa Led Americans to Marriage Equality. In fact, Cady “was convinced there was no room for even a concurring opinion–an opinion in agreement with the court’s conclusion but not its reasoning.” (pp. 134-5)

Thousands of Iowans have enjoyed a better quality of life since our state became the third to give LGBTQ couples the right to marry. Lambda Legal, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of six Iowa couples, has posted a timeline of key events in the case. State Senator Zach Wahls wrote today about the Supreme Court decision’s impact on his family.

I wanted to mark this day by sharing highlights from Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of that historic event. My deepest condolences go out to the friends and relatives of former Supreme Court Justice Daryl Hecht. The Iowa Judicial Branch announced today that Hecht has died. He stepped down from the bench in December 2018 while battling melanoma. Of the seven justices who joined the Varnum opinion, only Cady, Brent Appel, and David Wiggins still serve on the high court.

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Why I support Kirsten Gillibrand for president

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts advocating for candidates in Democratic primaries. Please read these guidelines before writing. -promoted by Laura Belin

I’m Kyla Paterson, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Stonewall Caucus. I very much enjoy leading such an amazing constituency that will build this caucus up for years to come. I’m also the first transgender chair of the caucus.

You may have read on Buzzfeed in January that I support U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York for the 2020 Iowa caucuses. I am not endorsing on the behalf of the Stonewall Caucus—I have given my personal endorsement.

Some people may be wondering why I did it the way I did, or feel that I was too early, but I think it’s time to stand up for fellow women like Gillibrand. I have been following her since her book Off The Sidelines was released and have been inspired ever since.

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Iowa’s defense of (whose) marriage act

Randy Richardson spotlights a terrible (and likely unconstitutional) bill whose sponsor has previously proposed other wacky ideas related to marriage and divorce. -promoted by Laura Belin

I volunteer for a group called Iowans for Public Education, following the legislature to see what bills impact education. As I went through bills introduced at the last minute in an effort to beat the first major legislative deadline, a non-education bill caught my eye.

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Protecting Iowa's courts

Connie Ryan on the current Republican effort to pack the courts: “Iowans understand this legislation is intended to advance the specific political agenda of a small group with a loud voice, placing our courts in harm’s way.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Interfaith Alliance of Iowa jumped into the business of protecting Iowa’s fair and impartial courts upon the announcement by the religious right in the summer of 2010 that they intended to unseat three highly qualified Supreme Court justices. They were politicizing the retention elections simply because they were mad the court ruled for the marriage rights of same-sex couples based on equal protections under our constitution.

The thought of a special interest group seeking revenge on our courts for a constitutionally-based and unanimous decision was unprecedented and frightening. Iowans wondered if this was where the division in our country was really taking us? Would extremist, special interest groups actually go after highly qualified justices committed to the constitution and the rule of law as retribution? The answer was yes.

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Seven riveting passages from Politico's profile of Kent Sorenson

Anyone who has followed Iowa politics during the past decade must read Tim Alberta’s profile of former State Senator Kent Sorenson in the latest edition of Politico Magazine. “Kent Sorenson Was a Tea Party Hero. Then He Lost Everything” is fascinating from beginning to end, so I strongly encourage clicking through to read the whole piece.

Having covered Sorenson’s legislative career and intensely disagreed with nearly everything he stood for, I was genuinely moved to learn how his outlook has changed over the past few years. Some passages that caught my eye are after the jump.

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Post-modern queer youth experience

“LGBTQ youth are forgotten even by members of the LGBTQ community,” writes advocate Nate Monson in this thought-provoking commentary. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Since 2007, I have served as the executive director for Iowa Safe Schools, a non-profit founded in 2002 to support LGBTQ youth through education, outreach, victim services, and advocacy. The organization works on the overall improvement of the queer youth experience for thousands of students across the state. The queer experience is the culmination of events and relationships a person has based on their LGBTQ identity. LGBTQ students are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience a range of issues such as bullying, homelessness, and suicide.

In early April, I gave a Tedx Talk at Wartburg College about the Post-Modern Queer Youth Experience.

Working in the LGBTQ equality movement for over a decade has given me a front row seat to its inner workings. What I’ve found is that LGBTQ youth take a back seat in this broader conversation on equality, even though LGBTQ youth represent one of the most marginalized and at-risk populations.

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