Varnum v. Brien

The Center for Inquiry joint several scholarly organizations in filing an amicus brief with the Iowa Supreme Court in the case of Varnum v. Brien.  In Varnum, the Court reviewed a state district court ruling that the state's bar on same-sex marriage violates the Iowa Constitution. Among other aspects of the district court's ruling, the state challenged the district court's decision to exclude five purported "expert" opinions by conservative religionists and others that same-sex marriages would harm children, families, and society. The district court found that the state's proffered "experts" lacked the appropriate experience or training in the relevant fields of social science, child development, psychology, or psychiatry to support their opinions. With other scholarly organizations, CFI argued that the district court properly excluded the testimony in question.

In April 2009 the Iowa Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion that the state ban on gay marriage violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa constitution. The Court ruled that the district court should have admitted the disputed testimony as relevant opinion on "legislative" and "constitutional" facts, to which the formal rules of evidence do not apply. The Court also found, however, that the "expert" opinions in question, "while thoughtful and sincere, were largely unsupported by reliable scientific studies."  The Court declared that in light of the total evidence, the district court's exclusion of the purported expert testimony was "of no consequence" under the Court's standard of review. The Court completed its analysis of the Varnum case with a frank and detailed discussion of religiously-motivated animus towards gays and lesbians, and towards same-sex relationships in particular.

The joint amicus brief was authored by attorneys from the law firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, with input from Ronald A. Lindsay and Derek C. Araujo, in-house counsel from CFI.

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