Conservative Republicans in the Iowa House are pushing legislation to bar county recorders from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples — and also to tie the state Supreme Court’s hands from ruling on the issue.
The latter proposal is an example of what is called “court-stripping,” or denying a court jurisdiction to consider certain hot-button issues.
In Congress, court-stripping legislation has sought to bar courts from considering detainee rights, abortion, religion (Ten Commandments, school prayer), and same-sex marriage.
According to an Associated Press article, however, Republican leaders who control the House vowed they don’t have plans to debate the measure, and Democrats in charge of the Senate called the bill unconstitutional and in direct conflict with a state Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.
Carolyn Jenison, executive director of One Iowa, blasted the bill as “reckless legislating at its worst,” according to a Des Moines Register article, and said it “attempts to strip authority from Iowa’s top court.”
Glen Massie, a sponsor of the bill, said the purpose of the legislation was to advocate Judeo Christian ethics as law.
Remarked Drake Law Professor Ian Bartrum, “It’s technically probably constitutional but it’s a pretty rare and radical step and probably an ill-advised one.” He said a section of the state Constitution permits the writing of laws to bypass state Supreme Court review.
This was not the only instance where legislators have made a rare proposal to bar state Supreme Court review of an issue. An anti-abortion bill, the Register article said, “would prohibit Iowa Supreme Court review of a law that would directly contradict the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe vs. Wade.”
Same-sex marriage is an issue that has raised voters’ and politicians’ hackles in Iowa. After the state Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling in 2009 permitting same-sex marriage, voters responded at the polls last year and dumped three high court justices who participated in the decision (see Gavel Grab).
You can learn more about court-stripping from Justice at Stake’s issues page on the topic.