The Iowa Supreme Court begins hearing arguments today in a lawsuit challenging Iowa’s law banning same-sex marriage. A Polk County district court judge ruled in favor of six same-sex couples on August 31 of 2007 after they brought a lawsuit claiming Iowa’s law defining marriage to be between a man and a woman is unconstitutional, and that’s how the case ended up before the Iowa Supreme Court.
University of Iowa law professor, Ann Estin says based on other similar cases across the country, the Iowa Court could rule against the Iowa law banning same sex marriage, uphold the Iowa law, or say only civil unions are allowed. Attorneys for each side will get 30 minutes to verbally state their case before the supreme court justices, and those arguments will be considered along with all the other paperwork filed in the case before the justices make a decision.
Two male Iowa State University students from Ames were the first and only same-sex couple to be married before the district court judge’s ruling was stayed pending the appeal to the high court. Christine Nelson with the National Conference of State Legislatures says there aren’t very many states left where such lawsuits might be filed.
“There are relatively few number of states that have taken no action that could potentially pass a statute, and thirty states have passed constitutional amendments already…so the numbers here for state action are dwindling,” Nelson says. Unitarian minister Mark Stringer stood under a shade tree in his front yard to conduct the hastily-arranged ceremony to marry 24-year-old Sean Fritz and 21-year-old Tim McQuillan in a six minute ceremony on August 31st of 2007.
“You know, this is highly unusual that I have a chance to marry — in a real way — two people who love each other and who have been not allowed to marry each other in this state,” Stringer said. “It breaks my heart that it’s taken us this long to be here, but I’m glad to be helping them do this today.” The fate of that marriage and any other same-sex marriages in the state now rests with the Iowa Supreme Court.