116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - In the six years since an Iowa Supreme Court decision effectively legalized same-sex marriage, angry voters exacted retribution on state justices but nonetheless thousands of gay men and lesbians got married.
While the state Supreme Court ruled that limiting marriage to heterosexual couples violated the state constitution's equal protection clause, it didn't come without backlash.
A recall campaign championed by failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats led to three justices being booted a year later.
One of the removed justices said Friday the court's unanimous decision to make Iowa the third state to recognize same-sex marriage was seen by some as revolutionary at the time.
'I think it just shows that we were a little bit ahead of our time in anticipating this result,” said former Justice David Baker, who now lives in Cedar Rapids and teaches law at the University of Iowa.
He said he's not surprised by the high court's ruling - that the Constitution's equal protection clause is clear.
Legally allowed in Iowa starting in 2009, same-sex marriages annually have accounted for a small portion of all marriages in the state, but took an uptick in 2013 when they accounted for nearly 15 percent of all unions.
According to statistics kept by the Iowa Department of Health, and the agency's estimates for 2014, at least 11,136 same-sex couples have been wed in six years.
Former Iowa Justice Michael Streit, also removed by voters, said the national ruling affirms the decision he and his colleagues made.
'I think all seven of us are very proud of what we did,” Streit said.
He said the state court's ruling did nothing to weaken the institution of marriage like opponents had claimed.
'Has marriage been lessened because of what we did? No, and in the U.S. all people will be able to enjoy the freedoms of America and be treated as equal citizens under our law.”
But the head of the movement to remove the justices remains firm in his belief that gay marriage shouldn't be legal.
'They didn't redefine the institution today, they undefined it,” said Vander Plaats, the Family Leader executive. He called the court 'completely out of control.”
Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said he was disappointed with nationwide ruling, saying voters at the state level should decide.
He said he believes there should be a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, though he acknowledged chances of that are slim.
Coming a day after the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Affordable Care Act. many GOP politicians felt they were dealt a double whammy.
'The recent Supreme Court decisions have only proven once again that we must redouble our effort to elect a Republican to the White House - one who will nominate judges who respect the different roles of our three branches,” said Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann.
Shortly after the state ruling, the Iowa City Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau helped create a booth at Gay Days in Los Angeles,
The bureau wanted to let people know it welcomed people of all sexual orientations, said president Joshua Schamberger.
He received messages from around the country criticizing the organization for 'turning Iowa City and Iowa into the sin city of the Midwest.”
Still, couples traveled to Iowa to marry. But over time, as more states removed bans, the market has slowed.
'That first year or two we had a terrific opportunity to welcome visitors,” Schamberger said. 'As more states have done the right thing and now the Supreme Court action, we are not as unique and the opportunity is not a great as it once was.”
One of the five plaintiffs in the case that established same-sex marriage in Iowa, Kate Varnum of Cedar Rapids, said she and her partner, Trish, were overjoyed by Friday's ruling.
'To think how far we've come in the past 10 years since we filed the lawsuit in Iowa - it's incredible,” Varnum said.
She said now her marriage will be recognized when visiting family. The couple are both employed at Rockwell Collins, but now they would be able to consider opportunities elsewhere without losing their rights.
'That feeling of being systematically divorced without really being divorced, we won't have that - we won't have that anymore,” she said.
B.A. Morelli and Lissandra Villa of The Gazette and Ed Tibbetts of the Quad-City Times contributed.