Groups Urge Iowa Supreme Court To Throw Out Suit

Mon. May 10, 2004 12:00 AM

Des Moines, IA - In a brief filed today, Lambda Legal, along with local organizations, is asking the Iowa State Supreme Court to reject an attempt made by antigay groups to insert themselves into a case in which an Iowa district court granted two Sioux City women's request to terminate their civil union.

"A judge, in his rightful authority, has addressed this matter," said Camilla Taylor, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Midwest Regional Office. "Iowa courts consistently resolve matters between couples living together, regardless of the status of their relationship, whether married or not. A handful of legislators and others have tried to insinuate themselves into this particular case because this time it involves two lesbians. It's clear these groups don't like gay people, but that doesn't give them the right to interfere in other people's personal lives."

The two women filed papers to dissolve their civil union in August of 2003. The judge in their case noted that he simply was resolving a legal matter between a couple as the state's courts routinely do.

In February of this year, a group of state legislators, a congressman, and a northwest Iowa church filed a petition to be heard by the Iowa State Supreme Court. They have filed a lawsuit asserting that the judge, in the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, lacked authority to declare the rights of the two women and terminate their civil union, and have asked the state high court to hear their case.

Lambda Legal's friend-of-the-court brief, signed by the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Central Iowa, urges the court to throw the case out. The brief argues that none of the parties involved in the challenge have legal standing to interfere in the case because they aren't harmed in any way by the Woodbury County judge's decision. The brief also points out that Iowa law permits a court to terminate a civil union, so that the members of the couple can move on with their lives with certainty about their legal rights, plan financially, and start new families.

After losing a legislative effort to overturn an executive order banning discrimination in state employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity,four of the legislators trying to insert themselves into this case sued GovernorTom Vilsack seeking to overturn the order. After a lower court loss, the governor chose not to appeal.