lesbian couples in Iowa should have the right to marry
despite a statute banning same-sex marriage, a district
court judge ruled Thursday. Judge Robert Hanson said a
1998 statute defining marriage as a union between a
man and a woman violates the equal protection and due
process clauses of Iowa's constitution.
"Couples, such as
plaintiffs, who are otherwise qualified to marry one
another may not be denied licenses to marry or certificates
of marriage or in any other way prevented from
entering into a civil marriage...by reason of the
fact that both persons comprising such a couple are of
the same sex," he wrote in a 63-page decision.
and Kenneth Upton Jr., senior staff attorneys with Lambda
Legal, argued for the plaintiffs alongside Dennis Johnson, a
Des Moines attorney.
"I think it shows
that every state in the country can offer fair
treatment," Taylor told The Advocate on
Thursday. "Even in the heartland--especially in the
The ruling stems
from Varnum v. Brien, filed in December 2005 by
six long-term couples--some with children--who
were denied marriage licenses by Polk County recorder
Tim Brien. The couples sought the status of marriage
to protect their families. According to Lambda Legal,
which is representing the couples, the words husband,
wife, spouse, or some form of the words
marriage or marry appear in more than
540 sections of the state's laws, which exclude
same-sex couples from many of the same rights as
Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the conservative Iowa Family
Policy Center, told the Chicago Tribune that
Thursday's decision will be appealed. "We're very
disappointed and will pursue to the next level of
courts," she said.
Taylor said that
the decision will hold up in the higher courts because
Iowa has a track record of supporting equal treatment and
due process under the law.
"Iowa has a long
tradition of doing the right thing," she said. "Over
time, Iowa has provided fair treatment of all sorts of
individuals. For instance, they allowed women to become
lawyers before a lot of [neighboring
states] allowed them to."
currently permits gay and lesbian individuals to adopt
children, and some jurisdictions in the state allow same-sex
partners to adopt their partner's child, according to
the Human Rights Campaign.
In April 2006, 26
conservative Iowan legislators attempted to halt
Varnum. The Alliance Defense Fund, on behalf of
the legislators, argued that the statute defined marriage
only for heterosexual couples. That August a judge
denied their application, stating that the
legislators' interests in the case were insufficient
for intervention. (Michelle Garcia, The Advocate)