CLS Students File Brief in Iowa Same-Sex Marriage Case

Columbia Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Amicus Brief Urges the Iowa Supreme Court to Secure Equal Marriage Rights for Same-Sex Couples
Press contact:
James O’Neill 212-854-1584  Cell: 646-596-2935
March 28, 2008 (NEW YORK) - Students from the Columbia Law School Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic submitted a cutting-edge equality argument to the Iowa Supreme Court today in a case seeking marriage rights for same-sex couples. The brief, filed on behalf of several Iowa constitutional law professors in the case of Varnum v. Brien, urges the court to abandon the federal approach to equality claims in favor of a context-sensitive equal protection analysis.
The brief argues that Iowa’s constitution requires careful analysis of all line-drawing by the state. By contrast, the federal approach looks closely at government discrimination based on race or sex but leaves most other official discrimination to the weakest form of judicial review. 
 “The many problems of federal tiered review conflict with Iowa’s robust tradition of equality, making it clear that Iowa cannot continue to apply this flawed approach,” said Sarah Hinger, a Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic student who worked on the brief.
“Iowa is ready to join the handful of states, including New Jersey, Alaska, and Vermont, that have recognized the importance of insuring meaningful equality protection in all cases,” said Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, Director of the Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic. “The context-sensitive balancing approach recommended in our brief will enable the Iowa high court to do just that.”
To contact Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg: call (212) 854- 0411 or email [email protected].
Clinics often provide future lawyers with their first access to real world legal problems.
“It’s rare for a law student to be able to ask a state’s high court to adopt a different method of constitutional interpretation,” said Keren Zwick, a Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic student who worked on the brief. “The experience has been invaluable and has reminded me that I chose to become a lawyer so that I could help to provide all individuals equal access to the law.”
The same-sex couples, represented by Lambda Legal Defense, won their marriage rights claim before the state trial court, and the state of Iowa brought this appeal. Second-year Columbia Law School Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic students Katie Harris, Sarah Hinger, Sadie Holzman, and Keren Zwick wrote the brief together with Professor Goldberg. David Goldman of Babich, Goldman, Cashatt,& Renzo, P.C., in Des Moines, Iowa is local counsel on the Clinic’s brief.
To contact students email: Katie Harris: [email protected], Sarah Hinger: [email protected], Sadie Holzman: [email protected], Keren Zwick: [email protected].
Columbia Law School’s Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic addresses cutting edge issues in sexuality and gender law through litigation, legislation, public policy analysis and other forms of advocacy.
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