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UI community reacts to same-sex marriage case as Johnson County expresses support

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | MARCH 29, 2013 5:00 AM

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The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in two cases involving gay and lesbian rights, which many University of Iowa students welcomed as a chance to recognize same-sex marriage. Some officials had different reactions depending on their political affiliations.

The highest court in the United States heard arguments about California’s Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage passed by voters in 2008.

However, Iowans could be more affected by the second case regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, which among other requirements does not federally recognize same-sex marriages in states where it’s legal.

“We have been married five years, four years in the state of Iowa this May, and the federal government doesn’t think we are married,” said North Liberty resident, Cyndy Woodhouse about her marriage to wife Amy. “Very similar to the basis of the case, my wife and I are concerned about our financial future being able to access retirement. Overturning DOMA would mean a lot … it would mean legal recognition of our family, and our son having two parents instead of one.”

Woodhouse said DOMA requirements cost her around $500 a year in taxes in addition to $1,500 in health insurance expenses. While she is happy Iowa has recognized the legality of same-sex marriage since 2009, Woodhouse says it’s still frustrating to not have her marriage recognized on the federal level.

“It’s a double-sided coin, I’m happy to have recognition we deserve in state of Iowa, but it’s frustrating federal government recognizes and legitimizes state decisions [to not recognize same-sex marriages],” she said.

One legal expert expects the provision of DOMA in question — the one denying the federal recognition of same-sex marriage — to be struck down since both ends of the political spectrum have concerns over its constitutionality.

“I think the conventional view is the challenged provision of DOMA looks pretty vulnerable, and the court seems likely to strike it down,” said UI law Professor Todd Pettys.

Pettys also said that liberals tend to view the provision under question as a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, while some conservatives believe the federal government violated a traditional state right by defining marriage as between one man and one woman.  

In spite of Sen. Rob Portman’s, R-Ohio, recent support of same-sex marriage, one state official said Iowa Republicans remain steadfast in their support of the one man, one woman definition of marriage but said members may debate the current stance in the future.

“In our party [the view of marriage] is really up to the people in our caucuses and in our conventions,” said A.J. Spiker, the chairman of the Iowa GOP.  “I expect it’s something that will be debated.”

Mike Carberry, the chairman of the Johnson County Democrats, said county Democrats were ahead of President Obama on the issue and remain very supportive of marriage equality. Carberry said he views the issue of same-sex rights as a clear civil-rights issue.

“We do not legislate civil rights, and marriage is a civil right,” he said.

And on Thursday, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to issue a proclamation in support of marriage equality, with GOP Supervisor John Etheredge voting in the nay.

One UI student said she believes there are similarities to the current Supreme Court cases and landmark rulings during the civil rights era.

“I definitely think [same-sex marriage] should be legalized, and there are obvious throwbacks to the civil-rights era and Roe v. Wade because the Supreme Court approached these issues that are so largely social,” said UI sophomore Emma Syth.

Mary Kate Knorr, president of the College Republicans, said she was conflicted but personally opposes same-sex marriage.

“I believe marriage is for one man and a woman, and that’s the true purpose of a family,” said Knorr, a former Daily Iowan employee.  “I’m conflicted, because I do want all Americans to have equal rights.”

Regardless of the court’s decision, proponents believe the issue has changed dramatically in terms of public support over the last couple of years.

“I think we have reached a tipping point, and we are on the right side of justice,” said Donna Red Wing, executive director of One Iowa. “Some folks who may have been conflicted about the issue are realizing… it’s not about politics, it’s about people.”


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