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Varnum v. Brien

    Brief Fact Summary. Six same sex couples are denied the right to marry and challenge the statute that defines marriage as a union between only a man and a woman.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The 1998 civil marriage statute does violate the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.  Same sex marriage is now permitted in the State of Iowa.

    Facts. Six same sex couples that are productive, responsible individuals bring a civil rights action lawsuit representing six communities across the State of Iowa.  Some have children and others are in the family planning stage, they hold jobs, contribute to society.  They have not been permitted to be married in Iowa and challenge the 1998 statute that defines marriage as a union between only a man and a woman.  The couples claim this ban violates certain liberty and equal protection rights including the fundamental right to marry, the right to privacy and familial association as guaranteed by the Iowa Constitution.    The plaintiffs also claim the legislative and executive actions unconstitutionally discriminate against the couples on the basis of sexual orientation.

    Issue. Whether the Iowa state statute limiting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the Iowa Constitution, as determined by the Supreme Court of Iowa.

    Held. The decision of the district court was affirmed by the Supreme Court to hold that the Iowa marriage statute violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.

    Concurrence All justices concur.

    Discussion. The state motto of Iowa is:  “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.”  The couples in this case also present research supporting that children are equally as well off in homes with same sex marriages as those with a mother and father.


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