Iowa Court to Hear Marriage Equality Case

The Iowa Supreme Court this week will hear a same-sex marriage case that could become a national victory for the gay rights movement or a chance to reinforce Iowa’s decade-old gay marriage ban.

Oral arguments on Tuesday will pit six same-sex Iowa couples against Polk County and supporters of the state law that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

The case, Varnum vs. Brien, could make Iowa the first state in the Midwest to legalize same-sex marriage. Other high-court decisions that favor gay rights advocates have come from traditionally liberal coastal states, including California, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

“This is the heartland of America – a place where family values are revered,” said University of Iowa law professor Angela Onwuachi-Willig, who has signed a court brief supporting gay-marriage rights. “It would be an incredibly strong signal for the Iowa Supreme Court to find that same-sex marriages are legal.”

Yet a ruling that upholds the Iowa Defense of Marriage Act would amount to a major setback for the gay rights movement, and a victory for social conservatives who argue that same-sex marriage threatens traditional families.

The couples, financed by a national gay and lesbian rights group, filed their lawsuit in 2005 after the Polk County recorder denied them marriage licenses. Last year, Polk County district Judge Robert Hanson declared the marriage ban unconstitutional and ignited a legal fire storm. Hanson later suspended his ruling until the Iowa Supreme Court decides the case.

via Des Moines Register: Gay marriage goes before Iowa high court this week


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