Court rules in favor of gay marriage

The Iowa Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision from the seven justices, has ruled Iowa's law that stipulates the only legally-recognized marriages are between a man and a woman unconstitutional.  (Radio Iowa had a reporter outside the Iowa Judicial Building to interview Iowa Family Policy Center spokesmen who oppose gay marriage and Radio Iowa covered a Lambda Legal news conference featuring the six gay couples who filed the lawsuit who were fist told about the opinion in front of reporters. Audio from both events will be posted online as soon as possible is now posted at the link above.)  Read statements below from Iowa's governor, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, three Iowa congressmen, state legislators and various groups, like the ACLU of Iowa.


DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver issued the following statement in response to this morning’s opinion by the Iowa Supreme Court in Varnum v. Brien:

"The decision released this morning by Supreme Court addresses a complicated and emotional issue, one on which Iowans have strong views and opinions on both sides. The next responsible step is to thoroughly review this decision, which I am doing with my legal counsel and the Attorney General, before reacting to what it means for Iowa.”

UPDATE:  Statement of Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)

"My personal view has been that marriage is between a man and a woman, and I have voted in support of that concept.  But I also fundamentally believe that same sex couples in a civil union should be entitled to all the basic legal protections and benefits of marriage.  The Court found that it is necessary to afford same sex couples the ability to marry in order to allow them those legal protections and benefits.  I will respect and support that decision and I hope that other Iowans can do the same.  I know that this decision will be very hard for many to accept but I also know that it will provide many committed same sex couples and families important rights, as well as an important sense of recognition and belonging.”

UPDATE II: Statement from One Iowa (pro-gay marriage group)  

Historic Victory for Marriage Equality in Iowa!
High Court clears the way for caring, committed gay and lesbian couples to marry

Today the Iowa Supreme Court in a unanimous decision that committed gay and lesbian couples must be allowed to marry in Iowa. "Today's ruling is an historic victory for fairness and equality," said Carolyn Jenison, Executive Director of One Iowa, the state's largest LGBT advocacy organization. "We're overjoyed! Today's victory assures that all Iowans have access to marriage and the security, dignity, and protections it provides. We extend our best wishes to the couples who choose to recognize their commitment to each other through marriage."

An excerpt from the decision reads: “Plaintiffs are in committed and loving relationships, many raising families, just like heterosexual couples. Moreover, official recognition of their status provides an institutional basis for defining their fundamental relational rights and responsibilities, just as it does for heterosexual couples. Society benefits, for example, from providing same-sex couples a stable framework within which to raise their children and the power to make health care and end-of-life decisions for loved ones, just as it does when that framework is provided for opposite-sex couples.”

Camilla Taylor, Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal and lead architect of the Varnum v. Brien lawsuit. “This will go down as another proud day in Iowa’s long history of protecting individual rights.”
Among the many public figures reacting to the news, former Republican Lieutenant Governor Joy Corning called the event "a momentous day for Iowa; today's ruling reinforces Iowa's historic commitment to fairness and equality."

State Senator Matt McCoy cautioned against employing divisive and reactionary measures to challenge today's ruling. "Today is a time to celebrate the values that bring us together, to work together to tackle the common challenges we face, and to move beyond the politics of fear and division."

"Today's victory was made possible through the support of the LGBT community and our allies who have worked tirelessly for equality over the years", commented Brad Clark, One Iowa Campaign Director. "This ruling is a huge step forward and a cause for celebration, but recent history demonstrates the need for continued engagement if we are to achieve lasting equality."

Leading up to today's ruling, One Iowa has worked to spark a statewide conversation about the importance of marriage equality. Statewide public forums, town hall-style events, and supporter-hosted house parties helped educate Iowans about the necessity of marriage for gay couples. In the months ahead, One Iowa will continue these efforts by working to secure and maintain full equality for LGBT Iowans. (One Iowa, the state's largest LGBT advocacy organization, is dedicated to supporting full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals living in Iowa through grassroots education and advocacy.)

UPDATE III:  Iowa Interfaith Alliance statement:

High Court Rules Marriage is a Right for all Iowans!
Supreme Court makes landmark decision to expand equal marriage rights to committed gay and lesbian couples.

Today the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in Varnum v. Brien that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same recognition and protection provided to other families under the law.  “The Court’s ruling shows Iowa is a place that celebrates fairness and equality for all Iowans,” said Connie Ryan Terrell, executive director of Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, an organization which works to protect both faith and freedom.  “It upholds the spirit of Iowa’s constitution which clearly states each of us has the right to equal protection and recognition under the law.”

“Today we are reminded that civil marriage is about commitment and responsibilities which are protected by law,” said Rev. Matt Mardis-LeCroy, Board Chairperson of Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and minister at Plymouth Congregational Church in Des Moines. “We, along with many people of faith and goodwill across Iowa, celebrate the court’s decision, which acknowledges the inherent worth of gay and lesbian families in our state.”

"This opinion recognizes the important boundaries between the legal requirements for the civil institution of marriage and the theological requirements for the religious institution of marriage," stated Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, President of the national office of the Interfaith Alliance.  "We believe this decision strengthens religious freedom because it leaves the choice over performing same-gender marriages with each house of worship to decide for itself.  It strengthens civil rights by granting equal right for all citizens.  Our organization stands for faith and freedom, and this opinion reflects both values."

Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, unites diverse voices to champion religious freedom and respect for individual rights. We recognize that there is a broad diversity of opinion among people of faith about marriage equality, including many who are undecided. Interfaith Alliance of Iowa equips those who support marriage equality to be strong advocates. We will continue to work to ensure that all couples, regardless of sexual orientation, have access to the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage, to care for their families and contribute even more successfully to their communities.

Founded in 1996, the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa is a non-partisan organization working to protect both faith and freedom in Iowa. We believe it is imperative that, in a healthy democracy, respect is shown for the religious freedom and beliefs of every person and that this is best promoted by maintaining a healthy separation between church and state.

Our beliefs intersect with many issues of civic life and policy including support of separation of church and state, public education, marriage equality, economic justice, and comprehensive immigration reform.

UPDATE IV:  Democratic leaders in the legislature issue a statement.

Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing civil rights

This is a joint statement from Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and
Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy on today’s Supreme Court decision:

“Thanks to today’s decision, Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing all of our citizens’ equal rights.  

“The court has ruled today that when two Iowans promise to share their lives together, state law will respect that commitment, regardless of whether the couple is gay or straight.  

“When all is said and done, we believe the only lasting question about today’s events will be why it took us so long.  It is a tough question to answer because treating everyone fairly is really a matter of Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency. 

“Today, the Iowa Supreme Court has reaffirmed those Iowa values by ruling that gay and lesbian Iowans have all the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship as any other Iowan.

“Iowa has always been a leader in the area of civil rights.

“In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected slavery in a decision that found that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped on Iowa soil, 26 years before the end of the Civil War decided the issue.

“In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated “separate but equal” schools had no place in Iowa, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

“In 1873, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against racial discrimination in public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

“In 1869, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law.

“In the case of recognizing loving relationships between two adults, the Iowa Supreme Court is once again taking a leadership position on civil rights.  

“Today, we congratulate the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws.” 


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Steve King made the following statement regarding today’s decision by the Iowa Supreme Court.

“This is an unconstitutional ruling and another example of activist judges molding the Constitution to achieve their personal political ends. Iowa law says that marriage is between one man and one woman.  If judges believe the Iowa legislature should grant same sex marriage, they should resign from their positions and run for office, not legislate from the bench.

“Now it is the Iowa legislature’s responsibility to pass the Marriage Amendment to the Iowa Constitution, clarifying that marriage is between one man and one woman, to give the power that the Supreme Court has arrogated to itself back to the people of Iowa. Along with a constitutional amendment, the legislature must also enact marriage license residency requirements so that Iowa does not become the gay marriage Mecca due to the Supreme Court’s latest experiment in social engineering.”

UPDATE VI:  Matt Strawn, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, issues statement.

This morning, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn released the following statement following the ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court in Varnum v. Brien.
“The sad and simple fact is this decision could have been avoided.  Once clear that Iowa’s marriage law was under attack by the courts and outside interest groups, majority Democrats had every opportunity to advance legislation removing the politics from protecting marriage and placing the decision directly in the hands of Iowa voters.

“Instead, this is yet another example of majority Democrats dodging the tough decisions that responsible legislating requires. Whether it’s unsustainable budgets, job-killing labor legislation, punishing tax increases through elimination of federal deductibility, or failing to lead on defining marriage, Governor Culver and legislative Democrats continue to demonstrate they are completely out of touch with the values of Iowans,” concluded Strawn.

UPDATE VII: ACLU of Iowa Issues Statement on Varnum Decision

Des Moines- The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa today released the following statement regarding the Iowa Supreme Court's decision in Varnum v. Brien.

The following can be attributed to Ben Stone, Executive Director:

The ACLU of Iowa congratulates the justices in the majority for adding another chapter to Iowa's long and proud tradition of visionary leadership on fairness and equality in America.

Like the Iowa justices in the mid-1800s who courageously made Iowa a legal haven for desegregation and equality nearly a century before the federal government did so, the majority today showed the world that Iowa is again among the leaders in America's quest for justice and fairness.

The ACLU of Iowa is prepared to work with other fair-minded Iowans to ensure that the vision of equality put forth today remains from this day forward.


“While Iowans will disagree over today’s historic Supreme Court ruling, it’s important to remember that we’re all neighbors,” Braley said.  “The Court unanimously found that gay couples are entitled to equal protection under the Iowa Constitution.  This ruling marks a big change in how our state defines marriage, which is both unsettling to many Iowans and welcome to many others.  Either way, we must come together as Iowans to resolve our differences on this divisive issue and ensure that no Iowan is discriminated against because of race, creed, sex, or sexual orientation.”


"Today is an important day for many Iowa families.  The beliefs of every Iowan should be respected and I understand that many people have strong opinions regarding this issue. The unanimous Supreme Court decision should be respected as a continuation of Iowa’s long standing national leadership in ending discrimination and protecting the rights of all of our citizens."

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Way to Go Iowa! Congratulations on achieving Marriage Rights and Welcome aboard!