‘Null and Void’: Iowa Aims to Expunge Same-Sex Marriage
The political battle to defend natural marriage is far from over in the nation’s heartland, as Iowa legislators have introduced two bills that would expunge same-sex marriage from state law and declare a national law redefining marriage “null and void.” The bills come as yet another local Republican Party chapter condemned Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), one of 12 Republican senators who voted for the so-called Respect for Marriage Act.
On Tuesday, eight Iowa state representatives introduced House Joint Resolution 8, which would amend the state constitution to read: “In accordance with the laws of nature and nature’s God, the state of Iowa recognizes the definition of marriage to be the solemnized union between one human biological male and one human biological female.” The measure must pass both this session and next session, then go to a statewide referendum of the voters no earlier than 2025.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brad Sherman (R) felt moved to introduce the bill based on history, law, and the Bible itself. “The definition of marriage was defined as being between male and female for 5,000 years of world history. Marriage has been defined as a model of Christ and the church for 2000 years (see Ephesians 5:31-32),” he wrote to constituents.
But Democrats claimed the measure originated from a lower motivation. “This kind of disgusting hatred and backwards thinking has no place in Iowa,” fumed State Rep. Sami Scheetz (D). “And I’ll fight it every single day.”
The second bill, House File 508, would nullify the Respect for Marriage Act, rendering it a dead letter inside state boundaries and protecting any state resident from being forced to carry out a same-sex nuptial ceremony. The legislation invokes the First Amendment, Tenth Amendment, and the separation of powers between the state and national governments established by the Constitution’s federalist system.
“The state of Iowa considers certain elements of the federal Respect for Marriage Act … relating to the definition of marriage to be null and void ab initio and to have no effect whatsoever in Iowa,” the bill declares. Any “attempt by the federal entity to erect a legal definition of marriage plainly falls outside the enumerated powers of Article I, section 8, of the Constitution of the United States” and violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
“The Respect for Marriage Act violates the tenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States by encroaching upon state powers that are reserved to the states or to the people,” it adds.
Since marriage represents “a sacred religious sacrament that is fundamentally” tied to the free exercise of religion, the bill says the government cannot compel anyone to take part in a same-sex rite. “No resident of Iowa shall be compelled, coerced, or forced to recognize any same-sex unions or ceremonies as marriage, notwithstanding any laws to the contrary that may exist in other states, and no legal action, criminal or civil, shall be taken against citizens in Iowa for refusal or failure to recognize or participate in same-sex unions or ceremonies,” says H.F. 508.
Both measures come as the Tama County Republican Central Committee censured Joni Ernst and fellow Iowa Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson for voting to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law last December. The censure says their votes violate the Republican Party of Iowa’s platform, which states:
“We believe that traditional, two-parent (one male and one female), marriage-based families are the foundation to a stable, enduring, and healthy civilization. Therefore, public policy must always be pro-family in nature, encouraging marital and family commitment, and supportive of the parental rights and responsibilities. We encourage the repeal of any laws allowing any marriage that is not between one natural man and one natural woman.”
“In line with the [f]aith and [r]eality with respect for all Judeo-Christian ethics, that are endowed to us by our Creator we affirm the following: ‘Only marriage between one man and one female’” the censure states.
The motion made the organization the 16th county GOP to censure Ernst over her vote to redefine marriage, according to a list compiled by The Iowa Standard. Others who have faced backlash for voting for the measure include Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Thom Tillis, and Richard Burr (both R-N.C.), as well as Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), and Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas).
The right of citizens to enact their own laws figured prominently in both Iowa bills, as well.
Iowa’s left-leaning Supreme Court imposed same-sex “marriage” on the Hawkeye State by judicial decree in 2009, making it only the fourth state in more than two centuries of U.S. history to recognize the institution — all by judicial decree. State supreme courts in Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut forced states to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2008; California passed Proposition 8 to overturn the ruling less than six months later.
“The reason I signed on” to H.J.R. 8 “was because in 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court made an unlawful decision to define marriage,” State Rep. Luana Stoltenberg (R) told the Quad City Times. “It never went through the legislature. So, if this resolution goes through, it would go to a vote of the people of Iowa.”
Some say lawmakers hope their bill will return to the U.S. Supreme Court, which now has a far more conservative, constitutionalist membership. “Let’s be clear: their goal is for SCOTUS to strike down the RFMA and overturn Obergefell,” said Santiago Mayer, the executive director of the Generation Z-focused Voters of Tomorrow.
In his concurrence to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which found the Constitution contains no “right” to an abortion, Justice Clarence Thomas invited his fellow justices to reexamine other cases premised on legal theories he considers erroneous. Among them, Thomas listed Obergefell v. Hodges.
Lower courts would typically have to issue conflicting rulings on the issue of same-sex marriage, and justices would have to agree to take the case, before it would come before the high court. The constitutionalist-leaning Supreme Court would then have the opportunity to reverse this precedent, which bars U.S. citizens from having a democratic voice on the policy.
First, both bills must pass committee by the end of this legislative day. Neither has been assigned to a subcommittee, and Speaker of the House Pat Grassley (R), Senator Chuck Grassley’s grandson, has stated, “I don’t expect any of those bills to move.”
The eight Iowa state representatives who introduced the marriage protection amendment are: Mark Cisneros, Zach Dieken, Thomas Gerhold, Helena Hayes, Brad Sherman, Luana Stoltenberg, Mark Thompson, and Skyler Wheeler.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.