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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State not ready to accept "Ag Gag" law is unconstitutional

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller didn’t ask state legislators to pass the country’s first “ag gag” law, and his office didn’t lobby in favor of banning “agricultural production facility fraud” while the bill was pending.

But the Attorney General’s office confirmed on February 21 that the state will appeal a federal court ruling against the 2012 law. The new court filing keeps up the pretense that a law designed to suppress investigative reporting was really about biosecurity and property rights.

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Why Iowa's not challenging Trump's emergency declaration--for now

Iowa is not among the sixteen states that filed suit yesterday to block what they called President Donald Trump’s “unconstitutional and unlawful scheme” to declare a national emergency in order to divert federal funds toward building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Attorney General Tom Miller has joined dozens of multi-state legal actions challenging Trump administration policies, and his office has not ruled out joining this lawsuit, communications director Lynn Hicks told Bleeding Heartland on February 19.

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Country's strictest abortion ban fails first Iowa court test

Iowa’s law banning most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected violates the state constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process, Polk County District Court Judge Michael Huppert ruled on January 22.

The Iowa Supreme Court will almost certainly agree that the law is unconstitutional. But it is unclear whether the high court will keep its decision grounded in the Iowa Constitution, as the District Court did. If the Iowa Supreme Court strikes down the law citing provisions of the U.S. Constitution, they will open the door to appeal in the federal courts.

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