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Iowa Republicans Seek to End Marriage Equality in State

Iowa Republicans Seek to End Marriage Equality in State

Iowa Rep. Brad Sherman

Their effort is unlikely to succeed, but that's not keeping them from trying.

Iowa was only the third U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage, thanks to a unanimous state Supreme Court ruling in 2009. Now some Republican legislators want to undo that.

Eight GOP state representatives have introduced a bill that would amend the Iowa constitution to define marriage as an opposite-sex institution only.

“In accordance with the laws of nature and nature’s God, the state of Iowa recognizes the definition of marriage to be the solemnized union between one human biological male and one human biological female,” House Joint Resolution 8 reads in part. It was introduced Tuesday.

The resolution is unlikely to pass; legislative leaders have said it likely won’t get a hearing. And the process of amending the state constitution is lengthy. An amendment has to be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions, with an election in between, and then go before voters, The Des Moines Registerexplains. It also would conflict with the federal Respect for Marriage Act and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling, and federal law supersedes state.

Eight Republican representatives, including six who are sponsoring HJR 8, have also filed a separate bill, House File 508, that would permit Iowa residents to deny recognition to same-sex marriages if they have religious objections.

“The state of Iowa also recognizes the deep historical and religious roots that uniformly defined and understood marriage to be the union between one male and female,” it says. “Therefore, no resident of Iowa shall be compelled, coerced, or forced to recognize any same-sex unions or ceremonies as marriage, notwithstanding any laws to the contrary that may exist in other states, and no legal action, criminal or civil, shall be taken against citizens in Iowa for refusal or failure to recognize or participate in same-sex unions or ceremonies.”

This measure is unlikely to go anywhere either, but that’s not keeping anti-equality forces from trying. Rep. Brad Sherman, a first-term legislator and founder of a conservative Christian church, is a sponsor of both, and he denies that either of the bills would interfere with the civil rights of LGBTQ+ people.

“HR508 does not redefine or erase any existing state law regarding same-sex marriage,” he wrote in an email to fellow House members that was obtained byIowa Starting Line.“The bill does not seek to tell same-sex couples what to believe. If they want to call their relationship a marriage, they are free to do so; that is freedom. But by the same token, people who do not define same-sex unions as marriage must not be forced to do so. HR508 protects them from prosecution and their religious liberty.”

He also wrote, “Neither HR508 or HJR8 seek to define or redefine marriage. They simply recognize what has been established by nature for all of history. The definition of marriage was defined as being between male and female for 5000 years of world history. Marriage has been defined as a model of Christ and the church for 2000 years (see Ephesians 5:31-32.” This, of course, ignores the fact that many people have different religious beliefs.

“Some have opposed these bills saying the definition of marriage is not government’s business,” he added. “I would agree. What people do in private is their business. It is not my business nor government’s business. But it was the gay community who made it government’s business, resulting in the 2009 Supreme Court decision ‘legalizing’ same-sex marriage in Iowa which forced the general public to accept that definition.” This ignores the fact that many government-recognized rights and benefits come with legal marriage.

“This is just kind of the latest salvo in a long string of attacks that continue to get more and more extreme every single day,” Keenan Crow, director of policy and advocacy at LGBTQ+ group One Iowa, told NBC News. “Now we’re saying that ‘we don’t have to follow what the federal government says, what the federal courts say, because we want to harm LGBTQ people so much that we are willing to destroy our federal system in order to accommodate the biases of these legislatures.’”

From the other side, Democrats in the legislature have filed a bill to put a gender-neutral definition of marriage into state law, making it align with the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling. “Our code still does not reflect that,” one of the sponsors, Rep. Elinor Levin, told the Register. The bill was not scheduled for a hearing in this year’s session, but Levin said supporters will bring it up again.

Iowa lawmakers are considering other anti-LGBTQ+ bills, including a “don’t say gay” bill, largely mimicking the one that became law in Florida last year; one banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth; and one that would essentially out transgender and nonbinary students to their parents. Students across the state held walkouts Wednesday in opposition to the bills.

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