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Same-sex marriage is under attack in Iowa

Published Thursday, Mar. 2nd, 2023

Des Moines, Iowa


On Tuesday, lawmakers in Iowa introduced a measure to ban same-sex marriage in the state by amending the state’s constitution. 


The joint resolution (House Joint Resolution 8) is sponsored by eight Republican Representatives and is one of many aggressively anti-LGBTQ+ measures to be introduced around the country in recent months. 


If enacted, the following section would be added to Iowa’s constitution: 


Sec.26. Marriage.


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.


The good news (if there is any with this kind of legislation) is that this amendment could take years to accomplish, and even then would likely be unenforceable, at least right away. Federal protections established for same-sex couples in 2015 (by Obergefell v. Hodges) are still in place, making existing state bans like this one defunct. 


But as many marriage equality advocates have pointed out recently (including here at AMM), the Obergefell ruling could be overturned by a conservative Supreme Court in the future. If that happens, any state bans against same-sex marriage still on the books would become active again.


Related: What overturning Roe v Wade could mean for Marriage Equality


It’s also important to note that the amendment uses language that implicitly targets trans people and trans marriages, and its reference to “nature’s God” echoes an assortment of increasingly exclusionary efforts by anti-LGBTQ+ politicians around the country to introduce a narrow view of Christian religious doctrine into state and federal laws. 


Similar religiously-themed legislation has been introduced in other states this year, although few bills are as bold as this one about their intentions: In South Carolina, Senator Gambrell introduced a bill (SC S0332) that would add gendered language to the state’s marriage license, requiring signatures from a ‘groom’ and a ‘bride.’ Rep. Thomas Beach, also of South Carolina, introduced the “Live And Let Live Act” (SC H 3611) that would allow county clerks to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. And in Missouri, the "Missouri Covenant Marriage Act” (MO HB732) would establish covenant marriage provisions in the state, requiring couples to sign a document stating that “marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman who agree to live together as husband and wife for as long as they both live.”



Many of the discriminatory marriage bills introduced this year probably come in response to The Respect for Marriage Act, which codified federal recognition of same-sex marriages rights in December of 2022. Unfortunately, this landmark legislation does not prevent states from passing discriminatory laws, or from banning same-sex marriage outright if Obergefell is overturned. 


HJR8 was introduced on February 28, 2023 with support from Representatives Brad Sherman;  Zachary Dieken; Luana Stoltenberg, and others, and has been referred to the Judiciary Committee. According to the Iowa Legislature guidelines, “an amendment to the Iowa Constitution may be proposed by either the Senate or House of Representatives and must be agreed to by two successive General Assemblies and ratified by a majority of the electors voting at an election designated by the General Assembly.” (via The Iowa Legislature) 



Read the full bill text here. 


Learn more in this article by Matt Lavietes for NBC News. 



Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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