In a divided opinion, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld a law barring single parents from living with convicted sex offenders. You can read the opinion here. From Chicago Tribune:
The case involves a Coralville woman who was found guilty of child endangerment and sentenced to one year probation. The woman, Holly Mitchell, lived with a convicted sex offender and let her children stay with the man while she was at work.
Mitchell's mother and sister also stayed with her two children, so they were not alone with her boyfriend, records show.
Mitchell appealed her conviction, claiming the state's law is unconstitutional because it treats people who are not married and living with a sex offender differently than people who are married and living with a sex offender.
Mitchell claimed the law violates the equal protection clauses of the U.S. and Iowa constitutions. She claimed there is no rational reason to treat people who aren't married and living with a sex offender differently than those who are married.
In her appeal, Mitchell argued that her equal protection rights were violated because the Iowa Legislature decided to distinguish between married and unmarried people, subjecting only unmarried people to criminal charges for engaging in the same behavior as married people.
She didn't argue against the need to protect children, only that there is no rational reason to differentiate between married and unmarried people. Mitchell also argued that the risk to a child is not greater living in a home where an unmarried parent lives with a sex offender than it would be if a married parent lived with a sex offender.
The Supreme Court rejected Mitchell's equal protection argument, saying that sex offenders who are married to a parent have "greater financial obligations and other obligations toward the family, so that the sex offender feels he or she has a stake in the well-being of the children."
"It is realistically conceivable that unmarried cohabitating sex offenders do not have the same stake in the children's ... well-being, and therefore post a greater threat to the children," the court said.
Justices Daryl Hecht and David Wiggins offered a dissenting opinion that the law violated the Iowa Constitution.
In the opinion, written by Wiggins, the justices said the law does not define cohabitation and that defining risk to a child based on that classification is "arbitrary and irrational."
The case was unusual because the legal issues really had nothing to do with sex offenders and recidivism. Instead, the focus was on the Equal Protection analysis as to whether there was a rational basis for treated married persons differently than unmarried persons. So, while the outcome was not terribly surprising, I'm not sure the case has a lot of legal importance beyond the specific holding of the court. As the opinion notes, error was not preserved for the due process claim. I think that challenge would likely have more success in the future (since interfering with intimate relations between persons is likely to limit a fundamental liberty interest).