Varnum v. Brien

Brief Filed: 5/08
Court: Iowa Supreme Court
Year of Decision: 2009

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 843KB)


Addresses a constitutional challenge to Iowa’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Index Topic

Sexual Orientation (discrimination; marriage)


Plaintiffs are six same-sex couples who reside in Iowa, who wish to marry their partners, and who would be eligible for marriage absent § 595.2, Iowa Code, which provides “[o]nly a marriage between a male and female is valid.” Also, the children of two of the couples are minor plaintiffs in the case. The plaintiffs raised state constitutional claims under the due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution. The District Court reached both claims, determining that § 595.2 violates due process under strict scrutiny and violates equal protection under intermediate scrutiny (as a sex-based classification); the District Court also analyzed the classification under rational basis review and similarly found it unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs filed an appeal and a “stay” on the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court which was granted.

APA's Position

This case poses fundamentally the same questions as the challenges to same-sex marriage statues in other cases such as Lewis v. Harris, Li v. Oregon, and Andersen v. King County in which APA filed amicus briefs. Although some details of the legal standards and specific arguments at issue in each of the cases may vary slightly, the psychological issues addressed by APA’s amicus brief are essentially the same.


On April 3, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously upheld the District Court’s holding that there was no important government interest in denying citizens marriage licenses based on their sexual orientation.