Happy 5 Year Anniversary, Iowa: Trish and Kate's Story

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April 2, 2014
Former Lambda Legal plaintiffs Trish and Kate Varnum with their son, Alex

April 3rd marks the five year anniversary of Lambda Legal's historic decision in Varnum v. Brien, the case that won the freedom to marry in Iowa. To celebrate the milestone, our former plaintiffs reflect on what the decision has meant to them and their families.

This is Trish and Kate's story:

When we had our commitment ceremony in 2004, Trish and I remarked to each other “we are as married as we can be." We knew that we wanted a marriage recognized by the law, but it just was not possible for us at that time. Trish and I knew that our relationship would not be acknowledged until Iowa struck down a discriminatory law banning recognition of relationships like ours.

The date April 3, 2009, is etched in our minds as a very momentous day. People ask us about our experiences that day, and I have many memories. I remember my anxiety that morning, so nervous I could not eat breakfast. I remember waiting with the other plaintiffs before we would learn of the decision. And, of course, I remember the absolute joy of learning that not only had Iowa won the right to marry, but that the judges’ decision was unanimous. In the weeks and months leading up to that day, many people tried to tell us that Iowa would never get marriage rights before other states, like New York or California. After all, people would tell us, Iowa is “backwards”, or “closed minded”, or even “too conservative” for the state to approve something as radical as equal marriage. So, when we heard that the decision was unanimous, it really sunk in how beautiful Iowa is for all of its citizens. Once the decision was read to the plaintiffs, I do not think my feet touched the ground for the next several days. I know that we did several interviews following the decision, but I would be hard-pressed to remember what we said! I do recall introducing Trish to the press as my fiancée, marveling in the awesomeness of our impending legal marriage.

In the five years since that day, Trish and I have gone through a lot together as a married couple. The protections provided by marriage have helped us navigate some important times in our lives. For example, when I lost my job in 2011, I was fortunate that my wife’s employer was Iowa-based, and we could both continue to have insurance. Last year, Trish underwent major surgery, and I was able to be with her as not only her advocate, but as her wife. If anything happens to one of us, we know that our relationship to each other will be recognized and respected.

Today, we look at our lives as normal, if not rather boring. Trish works while I go to school full time. I plan to graduate later this spring. Our son, Alex, is two and a half, and is the light of our world. He will introduce us to anyone who wants to know, pointing us out as his “Mama” and “Mommy." We love to spend time with him, laughing at his silly jokes. When we can, we spend time with our family and friends. We do not view our marriage as any different as any other couple’s marriage in Iowa, except for the fact that we did not have the option until five years ago.

The case in Iowa was not just about Kate and Trish. It was not just about the other five plaintiff couples from the case. This case was about our state recognizing that all Iowa couples deserve fair treatment under the law, regardless of our sexuality. We are forever grateful to everyone at Lambda Legal for making our dream of a fully-legal marriage a reality.

Learn more about the case here.

Check out our Love Unites US campaign here.