The Freedom to Marry in Iowa

Winning Marriage: April 27, 2009

Same-sex couples began marrying in Iowa on April 27, 2009 after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of the freedom to marry on April 3, 2009 in a legal case challenging the state’s anti-marriage laws.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • 1998: The Iowa Legislature passes a state statute restricting marriage to different-sex couples.
  • 1998-2005: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Iowa take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • December 2005: Lambda Legal files a legal case seeking the freedom to marry in Iowa state court, Varnum v. Brien, on behalf of same-sex couples in the state.
  • August 30, 2007: The Iowa District Court rules that it is unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples access to marriage. One couple is able to marry before the judge issues a stay in the ruling when marriage opponents appeal the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court.
  • April 3, 2009: The Iowa Supreme Court hands down a unanimous decision in Varnum v. Brien in favor of the freedom to marry, bringing marriage to America's heartland. The freedom to marry takes effect on April 27, 2009.
  • April 2013: Polling in Iowa tracks 20-point rise in support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

  • One Iowa is an organization that works for GLBT equality in Iowa through voter identification, grassroots organizing and educational events.
  • Lambda Legal is the United States' first legal organization dedicated to achieving full equality for gay and lesbian people. Lambda Legal was counsel in the Varnum v. Brien case.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.