Varnum v. Brien

Decision Date03 April 2009
Docket NumberNo. 07-1499.,07-1499.
Citation763 N.W.2d 862
PartiesKatherine VARNUM, Patricia Hyde, Dawn Barbouroske, Jennifer Barbouroske, Jason Morgan, Charles Swaggerty, David Twombley, Lawrence Hoch, William M. Musser, Otter Dreaming, Ingrid Olson, and Reva Evans, Appellees, v. Timothy J. BRIEN, In His Official Capacities as the Polk County Recorder and Polk County Registrar, Appellant.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

CADY, Justice.

In this case, we must decide if our state statute limiting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the Iowa Constitution, as the district court ruled. On our review, we hold the Iowa marriage statute violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution. Therefore, we affirm the decision of the district court.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

This lawsuit is a civil rights action by twelve individuals who reside in six communities across Iowa. Like most Iowans, they are responsible, caring, and productive individuals. They maintain important jobs, or are retired, and are contributing, benevolent members of their communities. They include a nurse, business manager, insurance analyst, bank agent, stay-at-home parent, church organist and piano teacher, museum director, federal employee, social worker, teacher, and two retired teachers. Like many Iowans, some have children and others hope to have children. Some are foster parents. Like all Iowans, they prize their liberties and live within the borders of this state with the expectation that their rights will be maintained and protected—a belief embraced by our state motto.1

Despite the commonality shared with other Iowans, the twelve plaintiffs are different from most in one way. They are sexually and romantically attracted to members of their own sex. The twelve plaintiffs comprise six same-sex couples who live in committed relationships. Each maintains a hope of getting married one day, an aspiration shared by many throughout Iowa.

Unlike opposite-sex couples in Iowa, same-sex couples are not permitted to marry in Iowa. The Iowa legislature amended the marriage statute in 1998 to define marriage as a union between only a man and a woman.2 Despite this law, the six same-sex couples in this litigation asked the Polk County recorder to issue marriage licenses to them. The recorder, following the law, refused to issue the licenses, and the six couples have been unable to be married in this state. Except for the statutory restriction that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, the twelve plaintiffs met the legal requirements to marry in Iowa.

As other Iowans have done in the past when faced with the enforcement of a law that prohibits them from engaging in an activity or achieving a status enjoyed by other Iowans, the twelve plaintiffs turned to the courts to challenge the...

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109 cases
  • Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Inc. v. Reynolds
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • June 30, 2021
    ... ... See Varnum v. Brien , 763 N.W.2d 862, 878 & n.6 (Iowa 2009). We zealously protect our constitution's equal protection mandate, but we must also respect the ... ...
  • Godfrey v. State
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • June 30, 2021
    ... ... Democratic Minority Leader Gronstal and then-Senator Vilsack voted in favor of DOMA. In April 2009, in the case of Varnum v. Brien , this court held that "the language in Iowa Code section 595.2 limiting civil marriage to a man and a woman [is unconstitutional and] must ... ...
  • State v. Middlekauff
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • May 27, 2022
    ... ... Iowa Dep't of Revenue , 904 N.W.2d 162, 167 (Iowa 2017) (quoting Varnum v. Brien , 763 N.W.2d 862, 883 (Iowa 2009) ). As a threshold matter, we agree with the State that Middlekauff has not shown that her first ... ...
  • Behm v. City of Cedar Rapids
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • January 25, 2019
    ... ... described in a trio of cases, the challenger had to negate every reasonable basis upon which the legislation may be sustained, see Varnum v. Brien , 763 N.W.2d 862, 879 (Iowa 2009), the legitimate government interest in the ordinance may be sufficient if it is "realistically ... ...
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41 books & journal articles
  • Equal Protection
    • United States
    • Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law No. XXIII-2, January 2022
    • January 1, 2022
    ...Connecticut’s Class Divide: Sexual Orientation as a Quasi-Suspect Class , 87 U. DET. MERCY L. REV. 227, 233 (2010). 380. Varnum v. Brien, 763 N.W.2d 862, 885–86, 893 (Iowa 2009). 381. Goodridge v. Dep’t of Pub. Health, 798 N.E.2d 941 (Mass. 2003). 382. Id. at 961 (holding that the limitatio......
  • Sex Equality's Irreconcilable Differences.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 132 No. 4, February 2023
    • February 1, 2023
    ...407, 481 (Conn. 2008) (finding that a marriage exclusion violated the state constitution's equal-protection provision); Varnum v. Bricn, 763 N.W.2d 862, 883-84 (Iowa 2009) (finding that a marriage exclusion violated state constitutional-equality guarantees); Latta v. Otter, 771 F.3d 456, 47......
  • Laura A. Rosenbury & Jennifer E. Rothman, Sex in and Out of Intimacy
    • United States
    • Emory University School of Law Emory Law Journal No. 59-4, 2010
    • Invalid date
    ...Jan. 1, 2010); VT. STAT. ANN. tit 15, Sec.8 (2009); Kerrigan v. Comm'r of Pub. Health, 957 A.2d 407, 481 (Conn. 2008); Varnum v. Brien, 763 N.W.2d 862, 905-07 (Iowa 2009); Goodridge v. Dep't of Pub. Health, 798 N.E.2d 941, 969-70 (Mass. 2003); Opinions of the Justices to the Senate, 802 N.E......
  • Exploring Identity
    • United States
    • ABA General Library Family Law Quarterly No. 55-1, April 2020
    • April 1, 2020
    ...v. Bogan, 766 F.3d 648, 657 (7th Cir. 2014); Kerrigan v. Comm’r of Pub. Health, 957 A.2d 407, 438–39 (Conn. 2008); Varnum v. Brien, 763 N.W.2d 862, 893–94 (Iowa 2009); Griego v. Oliver, 316 P.3d 865, 884 (N.M. 2013). Published in Family Law Quarterly , Volume 55, Number 1, 2021. © 2021 Amer......
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