Sponsor Of Iowa GOP Bills To Ban Gay Marriage Says That’s Not What The Bills Are About

By Ty Rushing

March 2, 2023

The lead sponsor of two bills that would outlaw gay marriage in Iowa—where it has been legal since 2009—told his Iowa House colleague his bills aren’t actually about banning gay marriage despite the language in the bills doing just that.

Starting Line acquired a copy of an email Rep. Brad Sherman (R-Williamsburg) sent from his legislative account late Wednesday afternoon to all representatives in the House in which he defended the bills and the rationale behind them. In the email, Sherman said, “many of the objections appear to be based largely on misguided emotions without understanding the actual bills.”

The legislation, which is unlikely to pass, confirmed for many LGBTQ advocates what they have said all session—that Republicans’ slew of bills targeting LGBTQ Iowans aren’t about “parental rights” or “protecting children,” but instead is simply rooted in homophobia, now rampant in the Republican Party.

Sherman also said the bills don’t violate anyone’s civil rights—they do—and that they aren’t telling same-sex couples what to believe because “if they want to call their relationship a marriage, they are free to do so; that is freedom. But by the same token, people who do not define same-sex unions as marriage must not be forced to do so.”

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Both bills were introduced Tuesday.

HJR 8 proposes creating a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a “solemnized union between one human biological male and one human biological female” in “accordance with the laws of nature and nature’s God.”

The second bill, HF 508, claims the federal Respect for Marriage Act—which protects same-sex and interracial marriage—violates the US Constitution and infringes on states’ rights. That bill also states “no resident of Iowa shall be compelled, coerced, or forced to recognize any same-sex unions or ceremonies as marriage, notwithstanding any laws to the contrary that may exist in other states, and no legal action, criminal or civil, shall be taken against citizens in Iowa for refusal or failure to recognize or participate in same-sex unions or ceremonies.” 

In his email, Sherman responded to criticism of bills he heard from colleagues piece by piece. Here are excerpts of his answers:

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On accusations that the bill violates civil rights:

“We are not seeking to deny civil rights or public benefits to anyone,” he wrote. “The two bills in question should be looked at separately.”

On HR 508

“HR508 does not redefine or erase any existing state law regarding same-sex marriage. The bill does not seek to tell same-sex couples what to believe. If they want to call their relationship a marriage, they are free to do so; that is freedom. But by the same token, people who do not define same-sex unions as marriage must not be forced to do so. HR508 protects them from prosecution and their religious liberty,” he wrote.

On HJR8, the constitutional amendment

“HJR8 proposes a Constitutional Amendment, which would take several years to pass in the legislature and then must be voted on by the people. Neither HR508 or HJR8 seek to define or redefine marriage. They simply recognize what has been established by nature for all of history. The definition of marriage was defined as being between male and female for 5000 years of world history. Marriage has been defined as a model of Christ and the church for 2000 years (see Ephesians 5:31-32),” he wrote.

On why the government is involved:

“Some have opposed these bills saying the definition of marriage is not government’s business.  I would agree. What people do in private is their business. It is not my business nor government’s business. But it was the gay community who made it government’s business, resulting in the 2009 Supreme Court decision ‘legalizing’ same-sex marriage in Iowa which forced the general public to accept that definition,” he wrote.

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Sherman concluded his email by again reaffirming that the intent of his bills to ban gay marriage aren’t actually about banning gay marriage.

“Different groups do exist, that is a reality,” he wrote. “But my commitment is to treat all humans with dignity and promote laws that are fair and equitable regardless of the group they are part of. This is possible if we remember that we are all part of one group called humanity.”

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Full copy of Sherman’s email:

Rep. Brad Sherman’s email defending his bills to ban gay marriage in Iowa.


by Ty Rushing

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  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.

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