Iowa Supreme Court Strikes Down Gay Marriage Ban

On April 3, 2009, Iowa's Supreme Court became the fourth in the country to declare a state legislative ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. Over ten years earlier, in 1998, the Iowa legislature passed an amendment to the state Statues defining marriage exclusively as a union between a man and a woman. (Iowa Code section 595.2(1))

As in Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut, the Iowa Supreme Court decided the ban infringed on the constitutional right to equal protection under the law. According to the unanimous decision, the couples involved in the case proved that, by not allowing them to marry, the state was denying privileges accorded to all other subclasses of citizens. This unequal treatment thus imposed unfair disadvantages on the couples.

"This record included an explanation by some of the plaintiffs of the disadvantages and fears they face each day due to the inability to obtain a civil marriage in Iowa. These disadvantages and problems include the legal inability to make many life and death decisions affecting their partner, including decisions related to health care, burial arrangements, autopsy, and disposition of remains following death. Various plaintiffs told of the inability to share in their partners' state-provided health insurance, public employee pension benefits, and many private-employer-provided benefits and protections. They also explained how several tax benefits are denied. Adoption proceedings are also more cumbersome and expensive for unmarried partners. Other obstacles presented by the inability to enter into a civil marriage include numerous nongovernmental benefits of marriage that are so common in daily life they often go unnoticed, such as something so simple as spousal health club memberships. Yet, perhaps the ultimate disadvantage expressed in the testimony of the plaintiffs is the inability to obtain for themselves and for their children the personal and public affirmation that accompany marriage." (Iowa Supreme Court No. 07-1499)

Following closely on the heels of the Iowa Supreme Court decision, Vermont (on April 7, 2009) became the first state to legislatively legalize gay marriage by overriding the governor's veto. There are now four states in the U.S. where same-sex marriage is legal: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont. While California's Supreme Court also declared a state ban unconstitutional, California voters have since overruled the decision.

While changes go on around the country, Minnesota's law remains the same. According to Minnesota Statute 517.03(1)(a)(4), marriage between persons of the same sex is prohibited. There are, however, other legal arrangements that may help offset some of the disadvantages inherent in the inability to marry.

At Banas Family Law, we represent all clients with domestic relations' issues, including same-sex couples. For couples who cannot (or do not wish to) marry, our qualified attorneys can assist in instituting a number of legal remedies designed to protect both you and your partner. For more information, please contact St. Paul family law attorney Chris Banas at 651-361-8109.