Friday, April 3, 2009


I just received this email from Andy Humm. It's great news, to say the least! It's puzzling to realize that Iowa can have a unanimous Supreme Court decision, yet California had a split decision on its Supreme Court and that vote was overturned by the voters, until further notice.

This is Andy Humm's email:

Brothers and Sisters,

This morning, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously opened marriage to same-sex couples, the first time a state high court has done so unanimously.

The court wrote that the “the language in Iowa Code section 595.2 limiting civil marriage to a man and a woman must be stricken from the statute, and the remaining statutory language must be interpreted and applied in a manner allowing gay and lesbian people full access to the institution of civil

Any attempt to overturn the decision by a constitutional amendment could not take effect until 2012 and such amendments have been rejected by the legislature in recent years.

The Vermont House voted 95-52 in favor of marriage equality yesterday, not enough to override a threatened veto from Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, but activists there are working on it. The Senate passed the bill by a veto-proof majority.

Enjoy the weekend! And congratulations to our comrades in Iowa and Vermont.

Andy Humm and Ann Northrop

April 3, 2009

Iowa Supreme Court upholds Hanson's ruling; marriage no longer limited to one man, one woman


The Iowa Supreme Court this morning [unanimously] struck down a 1998 state law that limits marriage to one man and one woman.

The ruling is viewed as a victory for the gay rights movement in Iowa and elsewhere, and a setback for social conservatives who wanted to protect traditional families.

The decision makes Iowa the first Midwestern state, and the fourth nationwide, to allow same-sex marriages. Lawyers for Lambda Legal, a gay rights group that financed the court battle and represented the couples, had hoped to use a court victory to demonstrate acceptance of same-sex marriage in heartland America.

Richard Socarides, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay civil rights, said today’s decision could set the stage for other states. Socarides was was a senior political assistant for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin in the early 1990s.

“I think it’s significant because Iowa is considered a Midwest sate in the mainstream of American thought,” Socarides said. “Unlike states on the coasts, there’s nothing more American than Iowa. As they say during the presidential caucuses, 'As Iowa goes, so goes the nation.’”

It’s probable that county and state governments in Iowa, as in other states that have passed gay marriage laws, will be given two or three months to put the change in place. That means that such unions won’t begin today, said Justin Uebelhor, director of communications for One Iowa, the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered advocacy group.

“Typically, it’s not immediate, and that’s most likely what we’d be looking at in Iowa,” Uebelhor said.

Opponents have long argued that allowing gay marriage would erode the institution. Some Iowa lawmakers, mostly Republicans, attempted last year to launch a constitutional amendment to specifically prohibit same-sex marriage.

Such a change would require approval in consecutive legislative sessions and a public vote, which means a ban would could not be put in place until at least 2012 unless lawmakers take up the issue in the next few weeks.

“If you’ll remember when we proposed the Iowa marriage amendment, the Democrats’ excuse for not taking it up was that it was in the hands of the Iowa Supreme Court,” Senate Republican leader Paul McKinley of Chariton said Friday. “It was implied that should they find against traditional marriage, that the Legislature would handle that. I would certainly hope they’ll keep their promise.”

Until today, Iowa law said marriage could only be between one man and one woman.

The case, Varnum vs. Brien, involves six same-sex Iowa couples who sued Polk County Recorder Timothy Brien in 2005 after his office denied them marriage licenses. Polk County District Judge Robert Hanson sided with the couples last year but then suspended his decision pending a high court ruling.

In Dec. 10 arguments to the high court, Assistant Polk County Attorney Roger Kuhle said Hanson erred in his ruling, which declared the 1998 Iowa Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and threw out several expert witnesses that gay marriage opponents had hoped to use at the trial. Hanson ruled that the witnesses did not qualify as experts on issues relevant to the case.

Brien, the Polk County recorder, rejected the marriage license requests because he “has no say in this law,” Kuhle said. “He can no more give these plaintiffs a license than he could give a license to a man and three women,” he added.

Kuhle argued that same-sex marriage could loosen the definition of marriage to include polygamy. Future generations might discard the institution if they come to believe that opposite-sex parents are not necessary, he argued.

A ruling favorable to gay marriage also could hurt children, who are best raised by a mother and father, he said.

“One could easily argue, and we do, that fostering same-sex marriage will harm the institution of marriage as we know it,” Kuhle said. “It’s not going to happen tomorrow. We’re not going to see any changes tomorrow, next week, next year, in our generation. But you’ve got to look to the future.”

Kuhle said state support for same-sex marriage would teach future generations that marriage is no longer about procreation despite thousands of years of history.

Nor does the case belong in the courts, Kuhle said. The debate should fall to the Legislature.

Same-sex marriage bill advances in Vermont
Burlington Free Press

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House voted 95-52 on Thursday night to allow same-sex couples to marry in Vermont.

The tally suggests it might be difficult for the House to override a promised gubernatorial veto of the bill that would need 100 votes, though supporters said they would push for that.

The vote came at 9 p.m. Thursday after four hours of impassioned debate on the bill in a chamber filled with supporters and opponents.

Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, spoke on the House floor about gays and lesbians in his community — carpenters and nurses and maple sugarers — and of his own relationship with his male partner.

“That’s who we’re talking about here today,” he said. “These couples are living everyday lives of ordinary and extraordinary significance.”

Lippert declared that the civil unions law he helped craft nine years ago could not provide complete equality. “People know what it means when you say you’re married,” he said.

Rep. Johanna Donovan, D-Burlington, agreed. “There’s only one thing truly equal to marriage and that’s marriage,” she said. “Now is the time to give civil unions a respectful burial.”

Like Lippert, several legislators who are gay or who have gay family members spoke emotionally of their own circumstances.

“I didn’t choose to be gay,” Rep. Steve Howard, D-Rutland, said. “God made me gay. I begged him not to make it so,” he said. “I stand because nobody should be ashamed of how God made them.”

With his voice breaking from emotion, Rep. Jason Lorber, D-Burlington, described seeing the notice about his union with his partner under the heading “civil union” in the newspaper. “Why do we have to be off to the side,” Lorber said. “Why do we have to say you are different? Why can’t we just say congratulations?”

Rep. Tim Jerman, D-Essex Junction, said he hopes his daughter, a lesbian, will be able to come home to marry when the time comes.

There were a few surprises from legislators. Rep. Kurt Wright, R-Burlington, said he was undecided going into the debate. Quoting a letter from former Sen. Peter Brownell, who lost his seat over civil unions but didn’t regret his support, Wright said he would support the bill.

Other legislators spoke about why they could not support the bill.

“It’s not easy to speak against this bill,” said Rep. Thomas Koch, R-Barre. “Marriage in my understanding has for the ages been one man and one woman. Now we take it upon ourselves to change that definition.”

Rep. Albert “Sonny” Audette, D-South Burlington, apologized for voting no. As a Catholic, he said, he could not vote to change marriage.

Efforts to derail the bill failed. Rep. Robert Helm, R-Castleton, argued for putting the issue to an advisory public referendum next March, asserting that the public has not had sufficient time to debate the issue. The measured failed by a vote of 96-52.

Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, succeeded in amending the bill to clarify the distinction between civil and religious marriage.

She was among five Republicans who voted for the bill. She was joined by Wright and Reps. Rick Hube, R-South Londonderry, Patti Komline, R-Dorset and Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe.

It was unclear Thursday night whether supporters of the bill could muster the 100 votes that would be needed to override a veto that Gov. Jim Douglas has said is coming. Some of the 11 Democrats who voted against the bill have said they would change course and vote for an override.

The House holds a final vote on the bill today. It then goes to the Senate, which passed the bill 26-4 last week, but would need to either concur with changes the House made or work the differences out in conference committee to send the bill to the governor.

Douglas would have five days from receipt of the bill to act on it, but has said he plans to veto it quickly.

Beth Robinson, who led the push for the bill with the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, counseled supporters after the vote that they need to keep calling people and knocking on doors to persuade lawmakers to vote for an override.

The House chamber was filled with supporters and opponents, some of whom had packed lunches and spent the day waiting through several hours of debate on the 2010 state budget.

Nina Beck of South Burlington was one of them. She and partner Stacy Jolles were plaintiffs in the court case that brought about civil unions nine years ago. Beck attended with 9-year-old son Seth, who was a baby during that debate.

“I’m very excited,” Beck said. “Civil unions we said was a very good step in the right direction. We’ve kept working for marriage.’

After the vote, Beck said, “It’s fabulous,” but added, “we have a way to go.”

Molly Jesse of Essex came to the Statehouse with friends to show her opposition to the bill. “It takes away from the sanctity of the marriage vow,” she said. “I can’t sit around and watch our marriage fall into this abyss.”
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genevieve said...

It seems that the states we least expect to advance lgbt causes are making progress.

Jerry Maneker said...

Hi Genevieve: It's hard to know how that's possible, but it's just a matter of time when all states will have same-sex marriage and there will be federal recognition of those marriages with all of the civil rights that currently accrue to heterosexual marriage. Best wishes, Jerry.