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Iowa Civil Rights: A Constitutional and Legislative Timeline

posted on April 14, 2009 at 5:59 PM

The court documents before the Iowa Supreme Court's recent decision about same-sex marriage included a detailed look at the history of civil rights in Iowa, both legislatively and in the Supreme Court. This is a thumbnail look at some of the laws and cases detailed in that brief, and also in articles written about the decision.

1838 – Constitution of the Territory of Iowa (US congress passed)

1839 -  Territorial Supreme Court: man could not be sent back into slavery "re: Ralph," WL 2764, at *6 (Iowa Terr. July 1839) "no man in this territory can be reduced to slavery." (US - 1865 after Civil War)

1846 – Iowa declared the 16th state

1844 - 1857 constitutional convention(s)

1847 - State Seal - "Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain"

1851 – Iowa General Assembly: removed ban on inter-racial marriage (1967 US)

1851 – Iowa "Code of 1851:" gave married women property rights

1855 & 1860 & 1915  – Constitutionality of above was clarified and shaped

1857 -  Iowa Constitution ratified (Gov. James W. Grimes)

1857 -  Iowa Constitution included African-Americans 'same rights' as every citizen

1867 – Iowa Supreme Court: broke with 'common law' that men would get absolute custody of children in divorce; "Cole v Cole"

1868 -  Iowa Supreme Court: school desegregation case "Clark v Board of Directors," 24 Iowa 266 -- a 12-year-old girl could not be barred from a Muscatine school on basis of race 

1869 -  Iowa Supreme Court: Arabella Mansfield could not be barred from practicing law due to gender. She became the first female lawyer in US.

1870 – Iowa General Assembly: removed "white male" from statute about lawyers

1873 – Iowa Supreme Court: Emma Coger, mixed race woman, could not be denied eating privileges in steam boat 'whites only' dining room.

1875 – Historic First: Emma Haddock, first female lawyer to practice in US Federal courts

1884 – Iowa General Assembly: civil rights law enacted (racial) – Acts of the Twentieth General Assembly

1884 – Historic First: Jennie McCowen, one of first US women medical graduates (U.I.)

1920 – Historic First: (Iowa General Assembly?) When women got the vote, Iowa also made them eligible for jury service (most states still didn't allow this for a decade or more)

1924 -- Native Americans given right to vote. 

1949 – Iowa Supreme Court: Edna Griffin in Katz Drugstore case – first successful application of 1884 Iowa Civil Rights law (national was 1964)

1965 –1969 US Supreme Court - Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District: Freedom of speech includes black arm bands protesting the war in Vietnam.

1965 - Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965: Established the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

1967 – Iowa Code Exempts Amish Schools from educational standards pursuant to Iowa Code section 299.24 on basis of religious freedom.

1970 – Iowa General Assembly:  no-fault divorce (one of first in nation laws)

1971 – Adel High School's (anti) Long Hair rule at school is unconstitutional (district court) Boys can wear their hair long.

1976 -  Iowa Supreme Court: sodomy laws violate "equal protection" clause (Legislation: Iowa struck down all sodomy laws in 1978; US in 2003)

1980 – Iowa Supreme Court: in divorce, child custody orders must not be based on race "Community prejudice cannot be permitted to control the makeup of families." (US - 1984)

1990 - Americans with Disabilities Act (National): In 1990 Iowa’s Senator Tom Harkin was one of the authors of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


Tags: African Americans civil rights gays and lesbians Iowa Iowa Supreme Court marriage slavery women


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