Iowa Supreme Court Grants Same-Sex Couples Right To Marry

April 3, 2009

Great Day For Fairness And Equality, Says ACLU

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

DES MOINES, IA – A unanimous Iowa Supreme Court today ruled that the state could no longer bar same-sex couples from being able to marry. The American Civil Liberties Union, which supported the case through friend-of-the-court briefs, applauds this historic victory for fairness for lesbian and gay couples.

“The Iowa Supreme Court has given an incredibly well reasoned explanation for why our constitutional principals of fairness and equality simply will not permit us to continue to deny lesbian and gay couples the right to marry,” said Matt Coles, Director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. “This unanimous decision coupled with the recent movement by statehouses across the nation to advance pro-marriage bills shows that the tide has finally turned in support of the freedom to marry.”

In reaching its decision, the court said, “Our responsibility … is to protect constitutional rights of individuals from legislative enactments that have denied those rights, even when the rights have not yet been broadly accepted, were at one time unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time.”

The case, Varnum, v. Brien, was brought by Lambda Legal on behalf of six same-sex couples and their children. Today’s decision affirms a lower district court decision ruling that it is unconstitutional for the state to deny same-sex couples from marrying in the state. The ACLU field friend-of-the-court briefs both before the district court and the Iowa Supreme Court.

“Like the Iowa justices who courageously made Iowa a legal haven for desegregation and equality nearly a century before the federal government did so and who issued pioneering decisions advancing the rights of women, the court today showed the world that Iowa is again among the leaders in America’s quest for justice and fairness,” said Ben Stone, Executive Director of the ACLU of Iowa.

The Iowa decision follows similar high court decisions in Massachusetts, California and Connecticut finding that is unconstitutional to bar lesbian and gay couples the right to marry. In addition to the courts, a number of statehouses across the country during this legislative session have advanced bills granting same-sex couples the ability to marry. Both houses of the Vermont legislature have approved a bill giving same-sex couples there the ability to marry. In New Hampshire, the House has approved a marriage bill, which is now pending in the state Senate. Marriage bills are also expected to be introduced soon in New Jersey and New York, were a bill passed the Assembly in 2008. In addition, there is a comprehensive civil union bill pending in the Illinois legislature and a domestic partner bill pending in Wisconsin. The Washington legislature is considering expanding its domestic partner bill to include nearly all of the legal protections that it provides to married couples.

The copy of the decision is available at http://www.judicial.state.ia.us/wfData/files/Varnum/07-1499.pdf.
A copy of the brief the ACLU filed before the Iowa Supreme court is available at /pdfs/lgbt/varnum_v_brien_supreme_amicus.pdf.
A copy of the brief field in the district court is available at /files/pdfs/lgbt/varnum_v_brien_district_amicus.pdf.

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