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Iowa to celebrate one-year anniversary of marriage equality
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Iowa to celebrate one-year anniversary of marriage equality

by Nick Ardizzone - SGN Staff Writer On April 3, Iowa will celebrate the first anniversary of Varnum v. Brien, the groundbreaking legal case which legalized same-sex marriage in the Hawkeye State. Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit in December of 2005 on behalf of six same-sex Iowa couples who held that their inability to legally marry was in direct violation of the Iowa Constitution. In a unanimous 2009 decision, the Iowa Supreme Court sided with Lambda Legal. This week, the Varnum v. Brien decision is being praised by civil rights leaders in Iowa and around America.

On April 1, Iowa Governor Chet Culver issued a statement in anticipation of the anniversary which praised the Legislature for not giving in to demands to amend the state constitution to legally define marriage as between one man and one woman.

"We stood firm for the civil rights of every Iowan by saying loudly and clearly that any and all efforts to add discriminatory amendments to our state constitution have no place in our state constitution," Culver said. "I think the overwhelming majority of Iowans do not want to amend our constitution in such a way that's discriminatory. I think that's the bottom line."

"I think Iowans want to move forward, and the Supreme Court has spoken loudly and clearly and I think it's time to move on."

"This has been a transformative year for Gay and Lesbian Iowans and their children. One year of equality in Iowa has made same-sex couples and their children happier and more secure; made Gay people everywhere prouder and safer; and reinforced the State of Iowa's leadership in protecting the rights of its citizens. That's a big win for everybody," said Camilla Taylor, senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal and lead architect of the Varnum v. Brien lawsuit. "And our opponents have not succeeded in taking equality away. Thanks to the hard work of our partners at One Iowa and leadership in the legislature, the freedom to marry remains protected."

One Iowa is the state's largest LGBT organization, committed to full equality for all LGBT individuals, including the freedom to marry. "After a year of marriage equality, I can say with confidence that Iowa is a better place where all loving committed couples are respected," said Carolyn Jenison, executive director of One Iowa. "The many same-sex couples that have married in Iowa are a testament to Iowa's longstanding commitment to equality."

"As happy couples and their delighted loved ones begin celebrating personal anniversaries, the milestone marks yet another moment in the marriage movement when critics said we couldn't - but we did," said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, a nationwide campaign fighting for marriage equality. "Before Iowa, naysayers dismissed the freedom to marry movement as a New England phenomenon or a struggle confined to the coasts. But since April 3, 2009, no one can call the freedom to marry a coastal phenomenon."

"Fairness won out," Wolfson continued, "and Iowa continues to inspire America to follow its heartland to marriage equality."

Iowa has a long history of being progressive on civil rights matters, as the Midwestern state was the first to rule "separate but equal" unconstitutional. Iowa was the third U.S. state to allow same-sex marriage, after Massachusetts and Connecticut. Iowa is currently one of six jurisdictions (including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Washington, D.C.) where same-sex couples are allowed to marry.

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