The Iowa House Judiciary Committee approved a proposal Monday to amend the Iowa Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages. The vote was 13-8, with Rep. Kurt Swaim, a Bloomfield lawyer, the only Democrat to join Republicans in supporting it. The resolution is now eligible for debate by the full House.
The amendment would not only prohibit same-sex marriages but also would deny state recognition to arrangements such as civil unions and domestic partnerships.
That prospect raises deep constitutional questions and almost certainly ensures that the measure, if approved, would be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, Drake University constitutional law scholar Mark Kende said Monday.
Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana and other states have passed similar amendments, and some are already in the appeals process.
The resolution is expected to pass the House, where Republicans control 60 of 100 seats. It faces slimmer chances in the Senate, where Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, has vowed to block a vote on the proposal.
The resolution reads, "Marriage between one man and one woman shall be the only legal union valid or recognized in this state."
Kende, the Drake professor, said of the resolution: "The part that is most troubling is that it gets into something beyond marriage and into arrangements, family situations and unions that sometimes involve benefits. Once you start taking away benefits from one group and not others based on their status, then that is something the Supreme Court is skeptical about. I think it would raise a profound federal constitutional issue."I really appreciated the analysis by Constitutional scholar Mark Kende. Though he did not state the specific case law that would be used in a constitutional challenge, I am sure that he was thinking primarily of Romer v. Evans - a case where the people of Colorado voted to make LGBT people second-class citizens just because of their sexual orientation. The Supreme Court voided this law because it targeted a specific people group. Though this amendment will most likely NOT pass, because of the resilience of the Senate Majority Leader, I fear that nationally the LGBT right movement is in a very dangerous position. Though it seems as though we will have victory in Maryland and Rhode Island this year, those who do not support marriage equality are realizing that they are fighting a losing battle, and thus they are attempting to throw in our way any roadblock that they can. That is why we must keep up the good fight in places like Iowa and New Hampshire where the current marriage equality laws are threatened, and in Wyoming and North Carolina where bigotry is attempting to rear its ugly head.