Iowans get same-sex marriage ruling Friday

BY ZHI XIONG | APRIL 02, 2009 4:30 PM

The Iowa Supreme Court will have the final word on the state’s definition of legal marriage tomorrow. The ruling for Varnum v. Brien will appear on the court’s website at 8:30 a.m.

Iowa law currently restricts marriage to one man and one woman, a definition six gay couples challenged with Varnum v. Brien, a 2005 lawsuit in the Polk County District Court. Twenty-six state legislators initially tried to intervene as defendants, but the court did not allow it on grounds that the lawmakers lacked sufficient interest in the case.

Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization based in New York, represented the couples. They argued that barring same-sex marriages violates the Iowa Constitution’s promises of due process and equal protection.

The district court ruled in the couples’ favor in August 2007, but only one couple was married immediately after the decision; Fifth District Judge Robert Hanson told courts to hold off granting marriage licenses until the Iowa Supreme Court heard from those who wished to appeal.

The Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling is the ultimate decision on the case because it is a matter of interpreting state law.

LGBT advocates are planning a rally on the Pentacrest Friday at 5:30 p.m. where local, state and national leaders are expected to explain the morning’s ruling. The group will meet at the Women’s Resource and Action Center to make signs and phone calls in preparation for the gathering.

“They’ll be either very happy or very disappointed,” said Laurie Haag, program developer at the center. “There might be a bigger crowd if they are disappointed, actually.”

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