Iowa: Ban same sex marriages and strip state supreme court of jurisdiction to hear appeals

In a repeat of an effort first launched in 2013 and discussed here, members of the Iowa House introduced legislation last week to strip the state supreme court of power to hear any challenges to a ban on same sex marriage.

The efforts are an ongoing reaction to a 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision that unanimously 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 2010 and an effort was made to impeach the other justices.

HB 101 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 4, introduced by many of the same co-sponsors of HB 444)

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 101 is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.


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