Iowa bill attempts to strip state supreme court of power regarding same-sex marriage; would reimpose ban on such marriages

In 2009 the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a state statute that banned same sex marriage. As a result of what became known as the Varnum decision, 3 justices of that court lost retention elections in 2012 and an effort was made to impeach the other justices. A bill introduced last week would in effect reimpose the ban and prohibit the state supreme court from ruling on it.

HB 444 contains 2 provisions.

The first prohibits court registrars from issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, until a constitutional amendment is submitted to Iowa voters on the subject (such as HJR 11, introduced by many of the same co-sponsors of HB 444, or the Senate version SJR 5)

The second prohibits any appellate review of the marriage license ban by the state’s top court: “The supreme court shall not have appellate jurisdiction over any prohibitions or restrictions established by this Act relating to the granting of a marriage license in this state.”

The language mirrors similar bills introduced in the U.S. Congress to prohibit federal courts including the U.S. Supreme Court from hearing same-sex marriage bans (HR 724 of 2007, HR 1269 of 2009 & HR 875 of 2011) however the federal version prohibited any federal court from hearing such a challenge; the Iowa bill merely limits the appellate jurisdiction of the state’s supreme court.

HB 444 is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.