Iowa Should Amend State Constitution to Defend Marriage


By Douglas Napier, Senior Legal Counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund

This year in Iowa, April Fools' Day arrived on April 3. That's when the Iowa Supreme Court found a right to same-sex "marriage" secretly embedded within the state constitution. Unfortunately, this wasn't a prank. This was an assault upon the family and the democratic process.

In one stroke, seven unelected justices of the court turned 170 years of Iowa public policy on its head. They callously ignored the will of the people, who in 1998 through their elected representatives passed - by a nearly unanimous vote - the Defense of Marriage Act.

Advocates of same-sex "marriage" saw this was possible. They saw a court that would allow them to bypass Iowans who would never agree to redefine marriage in a vote.

These groups set up camp in Iowa, quietly funneling money into state elections and test cases. When the direct challenge was finally made to the Defense of Marriage Act statute, the Iowa district court rejected the attempt of state legislators to intervene to defend their own law. So much for co-equal branches of government. Apparently, when you are the court, you make sure that those with the greatest vested interest in the outcome aren't invited into the discussion.

Of course, District Judge Robert Hanson's decision to exclude the majority of the pro-marriage evidence and expert testimony was a convenient way to ignore key information from the beginning. And it later allowed him to accuse the state of failing to prove its case. Apparently, when you are the court, you exclude evidence that might make it difficult to reach the conclusion you want.

And once the case reached the Iowa Supreme Court, the justices knew that a historical interpretation of the state constitution would never permit them to arrive at the result they desired. The answer was to announce that the Iowa Constitution doesn't mean what the drafters intended it to mean. Apparently, when you are the court, the constitution means whatever you say it means - with no regard for what the majority of Iowans think or have ever thought. In an amazingly choreographed dance, the court's opinion gives lip service to the concept that "all political power is inherent in the people" but at the same time puts a choke-hold on them.

The court morphed the people's constitution from a guiding standard to little more than a Ouija board that they believe "recognizes the changing nature of society." How much does society have to change before the court believes it can reinterpret the constitution? The answer is ... not much. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, same-sex couples represent only 0.2 percent of Iowa's total population. And polls do not indicate any broadening acceptance of same-sex "marriage" in the heartland, despite the media rhetoric we're being sold in the wake of having a judicial fiat foisted upon us.

In 30 out of 30 states where voters were given an opportunity to define marriage, one-man/one-woman marriage won every time. The people of Iowa also deserve the final say, and some of them showed up at the Legislature April 9 to insist that democratic leaders, who bottled up the marriage amendment in committee, get it out to the floor for a vote and to the people of Iowa to decide. The Register reported House Speaker Pat Murphy's response: "We're not going to let mob rule rule this state," he said. He should have completed the thought: "And so I'm fine with a handful of judges doing it instead." Speaker Murphy, letting the people have a say on the matter, up or down, is not mob rule. It's democracy.

As for the rest of the nation, those states that haven't yet adopted a marriage amendment must do so with haste. Marriage will be safely protected only when the people exercise the most fundamental tenet of self-government and amend the constitution in no uncertain terms. Only then will those states have adequate protection from courts who take citizens for fools.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on, April 14, 2009.


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