The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides in a case involving the “divorce” of a lesbian couple from northwest Iowa. The couple united under a civil union in Vermont, then asked a Sioux City judge for a divorce. Neither the couple nor the judge were in the Supreme Court this morning. Instead, the case was argued by the two sides in the gay rights fight. Kevin Theriot was the attorney for a group of state lawmakers and others who challenged whether the judge had the authority to dissolve that civil union. “The judges, obviously they had a lot of questions, feel very comfortable with our position and when the judges really knuckle down and read the cases I think they’re going to determine first that the judge didn’t have jurisdiction (to grant the “divorce”)…and most importantly, recognize that the people of Iowa have already spoken and that is that marriage is between one man and one woman and anything short of that undermines marriage,” Theriot says. The Supreme Court justices questioned whether the case was even valid since the appeal did not come from the two women who got the “divorce” or from the judge who ruled on the case. Chuck Hurley, president of the Iowa Family Policy Center, says it’s important that the case not be thrown out. Hurley says unless his side is allowed to bring the appeal, there’s no way to correct the so-called lesbian divorce, which he calls bad public policy. Hurley says if the “divorce” is allowed, then it creates a legal precedent, and he argues that would lead Iowa courts to recognize same-sex civil unions granted in other states. Hurley says that’s what gay rights groups want. Hurley says the legislature has said “no” to civil unions when it passed the “Defense of Marriage Law” which declared only marriages between a man and a woman are legal in Iowa, but this case would let gay rights groups “recraft” Iowa law through court action. Hurley says one of the Supreme Court justices asked a probing question: where in Iowa law does it say that civil unions are prohibited? Hurley says in Vermont, there’s no practical difference between a civil union and a marriage. Camilla Taylor, a Chicago attorney, representied a national gay and lesbian rights group as well as the A-C-L-U and the Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of Central Iowa. Taylor says the justices asked a lot of “thoughtful questions” and she can only hope the justices rule in favor of her arguments.”This lawsuit was filed by a group of people who have opinions, however strong, about whether two women should be able to go to a court and ask for a termination of their civil union, but they have no other connection to this case,” Taylor says. “This was a private family matter between two people and no one else had the right to interfere in this case.” She says Iowa courts routinely decide how property should be divided between couples, whether they’re married or living together, and this case is no different. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case this spring.
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