Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples
Demian, director   ||   206-935-1206   ||   ||   Seattle, WA

Table of Contents

Notable Events Legal Marriage Essays Legal Marriage Data Ceremonial Marriage Domestic Partnership
Legal Necessities Relationship Tips Immigration Couples Chronicles Parenting
Inspiration Orientation Basics Surveys Resource Lists Citation Information
Welcome (About) Your Host Copyright Policy Link Policies Search Site

Iowa County Court Finding
Varnum v. Brien
Judge Robert B. Hanson
© September 1, 2007, Demian

“This lawsuit is about fairness and equality. Same-sex couples all over Iowa are devoted and love each other. Since marriage is the way the government provides protection, support and respect for families, it is only fair that these couples be able to marry.”
Camilla Taylor, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Midwest Regional Office, Chicago

Judge Robert B. Hanson, of the Iowa District Court for Polk County, issued a finding for Varnum v. Brien, on August 30, 2007. In it was the demand that the state stop the unconstitutional discrimination against same-sex couples, and allow them to obtain a marriage license.

Varnum v. Brien was opened on December 13, 2007. Attorneys in case were Camilla Taylor, Kenneth D. Upton, Jr. from Lambda Legal, and co-counsel/cooperating attorneys were Dennis Johnson of Dorsey and Whitney in Des Moines, Iowa.

On the behalf of six same-sex couples who sought to marry in Iowa, the lawsuit argued that, under the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Iowa Constitution, it is unlawful to bar same-sex couples from marrying.

The couples in this case have been together between five and more than 16 years. Three of the couples are raising children, others are planning families, and all want the responsibilities of marriage, and the protections only marriage can provide.

When this case won, on August 30, 2007, a 63-page finding was issued by the Iowa District Court for Polk County, which stated that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry based on the Iowa Constitution’s guarantee of equal treatment under the law. Since the lawsuit is based on state law, the Iowa Supreme Court will have the final word on the outcome of this case.

The Iowa Varnum Couples
  • Trish Hyde, 40, and Kate Varnum, 31
    Together since 2000.
  • Larry Hoch, 63, and David Twombley, 64
    Together since 2001.
  • Dawn, 37, and Jen BarbouRoske, 35
    Together since 1990. They formed Proud Families, a playgroup for gay and lesbian families, and both serve as Girl Scouts leaders. They have two children, Breeanna, 3, and McKinley, 7.
  • Reva Evans, 31, and Ingrid Olson, 27
    Together since 1997.
  • Chuck Swaggerty, 33, and Jason Morgan, 35
    Together since 1997.
  • Bill Musser, 47, and Otter Dreaming, 48
    Together since 2001. They are licensed foster parents.
Photos courtesy of Lambda Legal

Varnum v. Brien Case History
  • December 2005 - Lambda Legal files marriage lawsuit in Iowa district court.
  • April 2006 - Twenty-six state legislators, represented by an anti-gay legal organization, file to intervene as defendants.
  • August 2006 - The court denies the legislators’ application, ruling that none of the legislators had interests in the case sufficient for intervention.
  • August 2006 - Plaintiffs Party moves to amend their petition in order to add three of their children as parties, among other amendments.
  • September 2006 - Defendant resisted plaintiffs’ motion.
  • November 2006 - Defendant moves for summary judgment.
  • December 2006 - Court grants plaintiffs’ motion to amend, including the motion to add three of their children as parties.
  • January 2007 - Plaintiffs file resistance to defendant’s motion for summary judgment and cross-moved for summary judgment as well. Plaintiffs also file affidavits from leading child development and other experts who explain the need for marriage rights for same-sex couples. In support of plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion, Iowa faith leaders, scholars and religious groups file friend-of-the-court brief, as does the Iowa Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a group of Iowa historians and law professors.
  • August 30, 2007 - A *63-page decision was issued by the Iowa District Court for Polk County, stating that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry based on the Iowa Constitution’s guarantee of equal treatment under the law.

* Click here to read the complete 63-page Iowa District Court Finding - August 30, 2007 (PDF file).

Here is the Conclusion from the 2007 Iowa District Court Finding:


Case No. CV5965


[This document is abridged - for full 63-page document, see: Iowa Court Finding]


The Court concludes that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that Plaintiffs are entitled to judgment as a matter of law but Defendant is not. Because $595.2(1) violates Plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection rights for the aforementioned reasons including, but not limited to, the absence of a rational relationship to the achievement of any legitimate governmental interest, the Court concludes it is unconstitutional and invalid. Couples, such as Plaintiffs, who are otherwise qualified to marry one another may not be denied licenses to marry or certificates of marriage or in any other way prevented from entering into a civil marriage pursuant to Iowa Code Chapter 595 by reason of the fact that both persons comprising such a couple are of the same sex.

$595.2(1) must be nullified, severed and stricken from Chapter 595 and all remaining provisions of Chapter 595 must be read and applied in a gender neutral manner so as to permit same-sex couples to enter into a civil marriage pursuant to said chapter.


It Is Therefore Ordered, Adjudged, and Decreed as follows:

  1. Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and Defendant’s opposing motion for summary judgment is DENIED.
  2. Iowa Code §595.2(1) is hereby nullified, severed and stricken from Iowa Code Chapter 595.
  3. All remaining provisions of Iowa Code Chapter 595 are to be interpreted in a gender-neutral manner so as not to exclude couples of the same sex from eligibility for a marriage license.
  4. Defendant is hereby enjoined from refusing to issue marriage licenses to Plaintiffs or any other same-sex couples who a) are otherwise eligible for said licenses pursuant to Chapter 595 as amended and interpreted by this order, and b) who properly apply for such licenses.
  5. Court costs are hereby taxed to Defendant.
Dated this 30th day of August, 2007.
Robert B. Hanson, judge
Fifth Judicial District of Iowa

For more information about the scores of U.S. suits, please see our article:
Legal Marriage Court Cases: A Timeline - U.S. court cases from 1971 to the present.

Return to: Partners: Table of Contents