Iowa State Lawmakers Propose Anti-Marriage Equality Amendment

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday March 1, 2023

Iowa State Lawmakers Propose Anti-Marriage Equality Amendment
  (Source:AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Despite almost eight years of national marriage equality and last year's passage of the federal Respect for Marriage Act, Iowa state lawmakers have proposed banning marriage rights for same-sex couples with an amendment to the state constitution, local news station KWWL in Waterloo reported.

The amendment was proposed on Feb. 28 by "eight Republican members of the state House," NBC News detailed.

The resolution reads: "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."

Were the proposed amendment to be approved by voters, it would likely be unenforceable, the article noted, given that the Supreme Court struck down all such state measures in 2015.

Even if the Supreme Court were to abolish marriage equality — much as it rolled back abortion rights last June, a half century after an earlier Court ruling that found women have a Constitutional right the choose not to carry out a pregnancy — the federal Respect for Marriage Act requires that states that outlaw the granting of marriages to same-sex couples within their own borders still recognize legal marriages between two people of the same gender that are performed in other states.

Despite the questions pertaining to civil rights and religious liberties that such a proposed amendment raises, lowa lawmakers — including half a dozen of the eight who proposed the anti-marriage amendment — also "filed another bill Tuesday, HF 508, which would permit the state's residents to not acknowledge same-sex marriages on religious grounds and says certain elements of the Respect for Marriage Act are 'null and void' in Iowa," NBC News reported.

The bill stipulates that "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."

State Rep. Brad Sherman, who sponsored both measures, claimed that the bill would uphold "freedom" for all.

"If they want to call their relationship a marriage, they are free to do so; that is freedom," Sherman told NBC News. "But, by the same token, people who do not define same-sex unions as marriage must not be forced to do so."

State Democrats denounced the measures, with Democratic state Rep. Sami Scheetz vowing in a tweet, "No, @IowaGOP, we will not be going back to the days when committed, loving same-sex couples don't have the same right to marriage equality as everyone else."

"This kind of disgusting hatred and backwards thinking has no place in Iowa," state Rep. Scheetz added. "And I'll fight it every single day."

LGBTQ+ advocacy group One Iowa came out against the measures, noting their conflict with federal law.

"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,'" noted the group's director of policy and advocacy Keenan Crow.

Georgia State University professor Anthony Kreis dismissed the measures as yet another example of performative politics from the GOP, telling NBC News: "Folks should take inflammatory, position-staking bills with a grain of salt."

Added Prof. Kreis: "This is the kind of legislative proposal designed to create a buzz and generate attention."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.