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June 16, 2005

Decision expected in Civil Union Termination Case (Alons v. District Court)

The Iowa Supreme Court has the following case on its expected list of decisions to be issued June 16th:

Alons v. Iowa Dist. Ct. General case description: The plaintiffs petitioned for certiorari review to challenge the district court’s termination of a civil union. The petition was granted and the plaintiffs argue they have standing to bring this matter by virtue of their status as members of the public, as legislators (both state and federal), as married persons, as taxpayers, as a minister, and as a church. They also contend this court may review this matter by invoking its supervisory and administrative jurisdiction to exercise control over all inferior judicial tribunals. Iowa Const. art. V, § 4. The plaintiffs argue the district court exceeded its jurisdiction in dissolving the civil union and its decree should be set aside.

Not mentioned in the court's description is that the Court sua sponte ordered the issue of the plaintiffs' standing to bring the challenge to the district court's action. The Court's docket lists "dissolution of civil union, standing to sue or raise issue, jurisdiction, and subject matter jurisdiction" as the general legal issues presented. The Court's decisions are normally posted at on Friday morning at approximately 9:00 a.m. CST.

The district court granted a decree terminating a female same-sex couple's civil union that was originally obtained in Vermont. The parties resided in Iowa at the time of the court's order terminating their civil union. Iowa does not have a civil union statute. The Court apparently granted the termination under its general equitable powers. Here are some prior press quotes about the case:

An Iowa county judge is under fire after granting a divorce between two lesbians who were joined in a civil union in Vermont. In December, the Associated Press reported that Judge Jeffrey Neary of Woodbury County approved the split for Kimberly Brown, 31, and Jennifer S. Perez, 26, last month, claiming he didn't realize the two were a same-sex couple. But when he figured out what happened, he decided not to reverse the divorce decision. "I think we will see (civil union divorces) periodically, and we will have to decide how we are going to handle these," he told the Sioux City Journal.

Even though Iowa is one of 37 states to ban same-sex marriage, Neary feels his ruling was necessary. "If I'm presented with a dispute that has to be resolved in my courtroom, or is before me that affects the rights of Iowans, I feel an obligation to solve that problem," Neary told the AP. "I don't believe I'm recognizing same-sex marriage." Neary claimed the divorce was legal under the Constitution's "Full Faith and Credit Clause," which requires states to recognize the laws of other states.

But Iowa state Sen. Neal Schuerer, a Republican, disagreed, calling Neary's actions "judicial activism at its worst. The judge was wrong. He should have backed away and sent them back to Vermont," Schuerer told the AP.

As could be expected, a number of parties have filed Amicus Curiae briefs with the court, including the Iowa Civil Liberties Unions, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Lambda Legal Defense Fund. The Iowa Attorney General's office has also appeared on behalf of the District Court. The Appellant, Dwayne Alons, is an Iowa legislator from Iowa's 4th District. His website describes himself as "mature, conservative, and pro-family."

Posted on June 16, 2005 in Divorce, Federal Laws-Cases |


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