Same-sex Iowa couple still faces hurdles

February 6, 2012 at 2:51 pm

from The Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Trish (left) and Kate Varnum spend time with their three-month-old son Alex at their home Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (SourceMedia Group News/Jim Slosiarek)

Kate and Trish Varnum have a running joke every time they drive out of state.

“We’d cross the border and we’d say, ‘It’s been nice being married to you,’” said Kate.

Trish, 38, is an operations clerk for a Cedar Rapids manufacturing company, Kate, 46, a stay-at-home mom to 3-month old Alex. Outside their Cedar Rapids home, though, they’re known for the Varnum decision, the Iowa Supreme Court’s April 3, 2009, decision overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The Varnums, lead plaintiffs and one of six couples challenging the law, were among the first of an estimated 4,500 same-sex couples to marry in the state after the ruling.

Since then, same-sex marriage has been legalized in five other states and the District of Columbia. An effort to give Iowans a vote on the issue appears stalled in the Legislature.

The Varnums’ story has been mostly happy since the ruling, but something as simple as crossing state lines can bring a reality check.

Like last fall, when the Varnums added Alex to their family. The Texas judge presiding over the process didn’t like it.

“He said our son will have a stigma growing up, and what do we intend to do about that?” recalled Trish Varnum. “He kept using that word, stigma. I told him in Iowa he’ll find a lot more acceptance and tolerance. Being a Texan myself, I wanted to say, ‘You old coot, not everybody’s as old and bigoted as you are.’”

“He asked us questions like, ‘what if happens when you divorce?’” Kate Varnum said. “Not if you divorce, but when. And Trish said, ‘well, we worked pretty hard just to get married.’”

Thanks to an “absolutely wonderful” attorney who pointed out Texas code left the judge no choice, Alex’s adoption went through. To the Varnums, it was just another instance of having to defend their marriage.

Read the full article from The Cedar Rapids Gazette.

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