On April 3, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in Varnum v. Brien in favor of the freedom to marry, bringing marriage to America's heartland. Iowa was the third state to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. Gay couples have been able to marry since April 27, 2009.

The Court continued Iowa's history of leadership in civil rights, which includes being among the first to eliminate the ban on interracial marriages, recognize the rights of married women, and desegregate schools.


In 2005, the case seeking to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage was filed on behalf of six couples seeking to marry in Iowa. At the same time, a public education campaign was launched to educate Iowans about why marriage equality matters for all Iowa's families.

In August 2007, the Iowa District Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples access to marriage. The opposition filed for an appeal and a "stay" on the decision the next day, which were granted. Oral arguments were heard before the Iowa Supreme Court in December 2008, and the freedom to marry was finally passed in April 2009.


  • One Iowa is an organization that works for GLBT equality in Iowa through voter identification, grassroots organizing and educational events.
  • Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.
  • Lambda Legal is the United States' first legal organization dedicated to achieving full equality for gay and lesbian people. The organization was responsible for filing and overseeing the Iowa case. 
  • Human Rights Campaign is the United States' largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. 


Support for the freedom to marry has increased dramatically in the past 8 years, with 41% of residents now supporting marriage. In 2004, just 26% were supportive. (Williams Institute, 2012)


According to The Williams Institute's analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census, 4,093 same-sex couples are living in Iowa, representing 3.4 same-sex couples per 1,000 households.

Blog Posts Related to Iowa

Zach Wahls celebrates 4 years of the freedom to marry in Iowa, looks toward SCOTUS ruling

April 27 marks the four-year anniversary of the freedom to marry taking effect in Iowa, whose Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that same-sex couples should not be excluded from marriage. This week, marriage activist and LGBT ally Zach Wahls published an editorial celebrating the anniversary.

Iowa celebrates fourth anniversary of landmark freedom to marry ruling

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the Iowa State Supreme Court ruling in Varnum v. Brian that same-sex couples should have the freedom to marry across the state of Iowa.

WATCH: Ken Mehlman encourages Iowa Republicans to support the freedom to marry

On Monday night, Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and an influential GOP strategist, spoke to a crowd at a public event in Des Moines, Iowa about why marriage matters and why supporting the freedom to marry is consistent with conservative values.

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Media Primer: 2011 Flashpoints for LGBT Equality

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Pew Poll Finds Growing Support for Freedom to Marry Among Evangelicals, Majority Support Among Youth

A comprehensive Pew poll found majority support for the freedom to marry among young people, college graduates and Catholics, with growing support among all other religious categories.

Party Principles: Support for the Freedom to Marry by State and National Political Parties

A listing of both state and national political parties that have made strong statements in support of the freedom to marry.

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