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What Do Iowans Think About Gay Marriage?

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The Iowa Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to uphold an August 2007 lower-court decision that found the Hawkeye State law limiting marriage to a man and a woman unconstitutional is not likely to be met with strong support statewide, according to public opinion polls of Iowans conducted during the last few years.

The decision, written by Justice Mark S. Cady and reached unanimously by all seven justices, found the Iowa state law violated the principle of equal protection.

Iowa residents, however, have not exactly warmed to the notion of legalizing gay marriage, in a Smart Politics analysis of nearly a dozen polls taken of the issue during the last five years.

When asked whether they supported or opposed the legalization of gay marriage, an average of only 33.8 percent of Iowans favored legalization, across eight polls conducted by the Des Moines Register, the Humphrey Institute, and SurveyUSA from 2003 through 2008. An average of 57.5 percent of Iowans opposed legalization of a marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

Opposition to gay marriage has remained fairly steady in the most recent polls, with 56 percent against legalization in March 2007, 55 percent in April 2007, and 56 percent in May 2007, June 2007, and January 2008 (SurveyUSA).

When Rasmussen asked 500 likely Iowa voters in July 2006 whether marriage should be defined in terms of a union between a man and a woman or between any two people including same sex couples, two-thirds (66 percent) stated the definition should be between a man and a woman. Only 30 percent said it should be defined as between any two people.

The only remedy at this stage for those Iowans opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriages is to amend the State Constitution – a process which would take several years. However, when polled about such an amendment back in 2004 by MSNBC/Knight-Ridder/Mason-Dixon, 56 percent of likely Iowa voters supported it, with just 33 percent opposed.

With this new Supreme Court decision, Iowa joins Massachusetts and Connecticut as the only states permitting same-sex marriages.

The Iowa Supreme Court is comprised of two justices who were appointed by long-serving Republican Governor Terry E. Brandstad (Cady in 1998 and Chief Justice Marsha K. Ternus in 1993). An additional four justices were appointed by Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack (Michael J. Streit in 2001, David S. Wiggins in 2003, Daryl L. Hecht in 2006, and Brent R. Appel in 2006). One justice was appointed by current Democratic Governor Chet Culver (David L. Baker in 2008).

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3 Comments


  • The whole debate around same-sex marriage is highly reminiscent of the debate surrounding interracial marriage throughout Jim Crow. Anti-miscegenation laws, as they were called, were predicated on entrenched ideas of inequality and popular standards for "morality". However, the High Court ultimately ruled in Virginia v. Loving (1967) that marriage is a fundamental right. Though this precedent has been tested against on issue of same-sex marriage in multiple state courts and found not to have holding, I think that the issue remains that marriage as a public institution is a fundamental human right. In that light, moral standards should not be set by popular opinion of the day, but rather by the moral compass that underlies our constitution.

  • I dont see no harm in same sex marriage after all why should'nt they are they not already in a steady relationship. Marriage is just a piece of paper.

  • I fully understand the need for same sex partners to have a legalized unon in which there is protection for both in the case of separation, death, etc. I'm still not sure that it needs the title of marriage.

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