Marriage Equality USA

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State of Iowa
All in this Region

Current Status

  • Civil marriage equality effective at the state level since 2009. (Same-sex couples may legally marry.)


  • Iowa was the fourth U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage, after Massachusetts, California and Connecticut.
  • On 2 November 2010, Iowa Supreme Court justices David Baker, Michael Streit, and Marsha Ternus, who participated in the unanimous 2009 ruling that Iowa could not deny marriage licenses based on sexual orientation, were removed from office via judicial retention elections. Their removal followed campaigning by groups opposed to same-sex marriage, including the National Organization for Marriage. The three judges did no campaigning on their own behalf, but were supported by numerous third parties.


Legislation - Pending


Legislation - Enacted


Lawsuits - Pending

Betty Ann & Richard Odgaard v. Iowa Civil Rights Commission et al.

Case #: CVCV046451
Court Level: N/A - State Commission
Date Filed: 7 October 2013
Date of Appeal: 1 May 2014


  • 7 October 2013, Betty Ann & Richard Odgaard, bistro owners, sued IA, claiming that: (1) their religious beliefs compel them to discriminate against same-gender couples, (2) the IA anti-discrimination law violates their religious beliefs by forbidding discrimination, and (3) their bistro business qualifies as a religious institution. (They are Mennonites.)

Lawsuits - Resolved

Varnum v. Brien

Case #: 763 N.W.2d 862
Date Filed: December 2005
Ruling Date: 3 April 2009


  • Six same-sex couples went to the Office of the Polk County Recorder in Des Moines, Iowa, at various times between November 2005 and January 2006 in an attempt to apply for marriage licenses. Each couple's application was denied because in each case the couple was composed of two people of the same sex, and Iowa law only permitted couples composed of one man and one woman to marry.
  • Lambda Legal filed suit for the couples in Polk County District Court, against Timothy Brien, Polk County Recorder, for refusing to grant them marriage licenses arguing that this law violated certain rights guaranteed by the Iowa constitution.
  • In 2007, the District Judge Robert Hanson granted summary judgment in favor of the couples.
  • Judge Hanson issued a stay of his ruling on 31 August 2007, in anticipation of an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court (filed in March 2008).
  • The final ruling, in April 2009, was a unanimous decision of the Iowa Supreme Court that held the state's limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples violated the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution. It established same-sex marriage in Iowa.
  • In 2010 Iowa voters defeated the retention of three of the judges responsible for the decision, but in 2012 they retained the one judge who participated in the decision and whose term would otherwise have ended, following various polls showing that a majority of Iowans support marriage equality.

Ballot Initiatives - Pending


Ballot Initiatives - Passed



  • On 6 March 2014, Des Moines Register newspaper surveyed 703 Iowa adults about same-gender civil marriage, and reported that 36% don't care, 34% are disappointed, and 28% are proud.
  • 28 February 2014, Public Policy Polling released the results of a February poll. They surveyed voters regarding the 2009 legalization of same-gender civil marriage, and reported that 78% say it had no impact or a positive impact on their lives, and 22% claim a negative impact. Separately, 46% say it should be legal, 45% say it should not, with 9% unsure. Poll Details
  • 22 July 2013, a Quinniapac University poll found that 47% of those surveyed believed same-sex marriage should be legal in Iowa.