Alons v. Iowa District Court for Woodbury County
In August 2003, two Sioux City women filed papers in Iowa to dissolve the civil union they entered into in Vermont. An Iowa family court granted the dissolution, noting that it simply was resolving a legal matter between a couple at the end of the couple's relationship as the state's courts routinely do, regardless of whether the couple is married or unmarried. An antigay organization representing a group of state legislators, a congressman and a northwest Iowa church filed a lawsuit against the judge and the two women before the Iowa State Supreme Court, claiming that the judge lacked authority to hear the women's case. Lambda Legal argued the case on behalf of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Central Iowa, urging the Court to dismiss the antigay group's lawsuit because the antigay legislators and church had no personal interest in the case and because the family court's decision was proper under Iowa law.
Iowa courts consistently resolve disputes between couples living together, whether married or not, the family court here acted within its rightful authority. After losing this case, many of the antigay activists involved mounted a campaign to unseat the family court judge who had presided over the case. Other groups, including the Iowa State Bar Association, stepped in and defended the judge's qualifications. The judge retained his seat.
Lambda Legal's Impact
The Iowa Supreme Court's decision in this case made clear that antigay groups have no right to interfere in other peoples' private family matters. A desire to express antigay opinions is not a sufficient basis for a lawsuit.
Sharon Malheiro of Davis, Brown, Koehn, Shors & Roberts, P.C., the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Central Iowa