Six gay couples had what is akin to their first day in court today as the group tries to get gay marriage legalized in Iowa. The couples filed a lawsuit, asking the court to toss out the Iowa law that stipulates the only legally-recognized marriages in Iowa are those between a man and a woman.
Lawyers on both sides of the case made lengthy arguments before a Polk County District Court judge this afternoon. Dennis Johnson is an attorney for the gay couples. “These families are Iowa citizens. They’re good and they’re decent people and they’ve come to court today to claim their constitutional right under the Iowa Constitution just to be treated…like all the other families in this state,” Johnson said to open his remarks.
“This is not a hypothetical question or an academic issue. This is a case involving real people…These people have real problems because the state of Iowa insists on treating them like second-class citizens.” Johnson argued a “litany” of legal rights as well as financial privileges are bestowed on couples when they marry.
“All of which are denied to my clients and their children and it literally has a huge financial impact on their life,” Johnson said. “They are stigmatized…and that, in fact, fosters private discrimination as well.” Johnson cites instances in which his clients were denied spousal benefits, like health care insurance, because their partner was not of the opposite sex. “The bottom line is this…It is wrong. It’s unfair…That’s why we have come to court because the court is the appropriate place to address that problem,” Johnson said.
But Roger Kuhle, an assistant Polk County Attorney who represented the opposing side, said this is a question for legislators, not judges, to decide. “What the plaintiffs have asked this court to do is to enter into the legislative arena,” Kuhle argued. “…They’ve asked the court to redefine marriage.” Kuhle said no court in the country has declared that homosexuals have a right to “same-sex” marriage.
“There is no dispute that marriage always has been between a man and a woman — a male and a female,” Kuhle said in court. “The Iowa law has been that way since the state became a state in 1846.” And Kuhle went on to argue that preserving traditional marriage between a man and a woman is in the state’s interest. “The Iowa Legislature has had this law on the books for many, many years because it intends to convey to our public that marriage is about the bringing together of a man and a woman in responsible procreation to raise a family,” Kuhle told the judge.
Kuhle closed his arguments with this plea. “Don’t take the bait that somehow because sodomy was decriminalized by the U.S. Supreme Court that that means that there’s now a fundamental right to same-sex marriage,” Kuhle said. The judge told the lawyers he’ll rule on the case as soon as possible, but that could be weeks. Regardless of that district judge’s decision, both sides expect it will be appealed all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court.