Regardless of how the Iowa Supreme Court rules on Varnum vs. Brien tomorrow morning, the decision will have a lasting impact on whether or not gays and lesbians are entitled to state-sponsored marriage here in Iowa.
If the court upholds Judge Hanson’s ruling, gay marriage will be allowed in Iowa. What makes Iowa unique is that the state does not require residency to get married. Iowa would be the first state that allows gay marriage that doesn’t have a residency requirement.
Under this scenario, people from all around the country could come to Iowa to be legally married and then return to their home state. This creates an interesting predicament for their employers and their state governments. Whose law applies? Iowa’s or their own? We have already seen a situation like this play out in Iowa when a lesbian couple sought and was granted a divorce in Iowa, after being legally married elsewhere.
If gay marriage is legalized tomorrow, the earliest it could be overturned would be November of 2012. To reverse the court’s decision, Iowans would have to pass a constitutional amendment. In Iowa, that means both the House and Senate have to pass the amendment in two consecutive general assemblies by a simple majority. The amendment then goes on the ballot in the next general election, where it also needs a simple majority to pass.
If the court rejects Hanson’s ruling, Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act (D.O.M.A.) would remain intact, meaning gay marriage would not be legal in Iowa. Under this scenario, the court would be setting a precedent that would strengthen Iowa’s D.O.M.A. law. This would basically require those in favor of gay marriage to pursue a constitutional amendment.
All of this means that the side that loses this case will have a long treacherous road ahead of them. For social conservatives, it would basically require Republicans to remain the majority in the House and Senate. That means picking up seven seats in the House and eight seats in the Senate.
On the other hand, gay rights activists might find it difficult getting the current Democrat majorities in the House and Senate to pass an amendment. Democrats already refused to take up the issue following Judge Hanson’s decision, and legislators have indicated that they are not likely to pass legislation that would counter the Supreme Court’s decision this session.
blog comments powered by Disqus