United States of America


Limited information only available for these topics

Access to Children
Adoption of Children
Age of Consent
Artifical Insemination
Assisted Reproduction
Civil Unions
  Custody of Children
Fostering Children
Gender Identity
Hate Crimes
  Health, Medical
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
Transgender, Transsexual
Wrongful Death

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Civil Unions, Partners: Domestic, Registered Legislation/Cases/References


In 2003, the state of Iowa agreed to extend health and dental benefits to domestic partners, including gay and lesbian couples, under a two-year contract with state workers that took effect 01 July [R1.1].

Since July 2000, employees at Iowa's public universities have had this benefit [R1.1].


Cities & Towns

In 2001, Iowa City offered domestic-partner benefits to municipal employees for seven years [R2.1] and had a registry.

R1.1 Des Moines Register: State agrees to insure partners 27 FEB 03
R2.1 Wichita Eagle: County Domestic Partner Policy Stirs Firestorm 03 OCT 01
Discrimination Legislation/Cases/References


There is no State-wide anti-discrimination legislation.

In January 2003, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission supported a bill in the state Legislature that would if passed add sexual orientation to the state's current discrimination law and afford protection from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation, education and credit practices [R1.5].

In March 2001, Iowa governor Tom Vilsack issued another executive order designed to protect state employees from discrimination [R1.4].


In December 2000, the Court ruled that the Governor had overstepped his authority in siging an executive order banning discrimination.

See 3. Courts & Tribunals below.

In April 2000, the Governor promptly vetoed the Bill that sought to repeal the Governor's earlier executive order [R1.3].

In April 2000, the House sought to have the Governor's executive order repealed [R1.2].

In October 1999, Governor Tom Vilsak signed an executive order banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity among state workers, the first such order in the nation to cover transgendered people [R1.1].


Cities & Towns

In February 2006, Dubuque city council approved the addition of sexual orientation as a protected characteristic under the city's human rights ordinance [R2.4].

In July 2001, Des Moines joined Ames, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Davenport in adding a sexual orientation clause to their antidiscrimination ordinances [R2.3].

In March 2000, Davenport became the fourth Iowa city to extend civil rights protection based on sexual orientation. The ordinance prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in matters of employment, housing, public accommodations and credit [R2.2].

In January 1999, the Cedar Rapids City Council voted to add sexual orientation to the city's civil rights ordinance protecting homosexuals, bisexuals and heterosexuals from discrimination in education, credit, employment, housing and public accommodation [R2.1].


Courts & Tribunals

On 23 January 2018, US District Judge Stephanie M Rose granted a Motion for Preliminary Injunction and ordered the University to restore the Business Leaders in Christ to registered student organization status for ninety days. The University determined had BLinC violated the University's Policy on Human Rights by refusing to accept gay students in leadership roles in the BLinC [C3.3], [R3.2].

In December 2000, Polk County Judge Glenn Pille ruled that Governor Tom Vilsack overstepped his authority when he issued an executive order last year forbidding discrimination against gays, lesbians, and transsexuals in state government [R3.1].

R1.5 Iowa State Daily: Passage of bill would prohibit discrimination, extend opportunity 23 JAN 03
R1.4 The Advocate: Iowa Governor Issues New Executive Order 31 MAR-02 APR 01
R1.3 Associated Press: Vilsack Vetoes Gay Rights Executive Order 15 APR 00
R1.2 Des Moines Register: Veto to Stop House Repeal of Gay Rights Bill 05 APR 00
R1.1 The Advocate: Iowa Governor Bans Discrimination in State Employment 08 OCT 99
Cities & Towns
R2.4 The Advocate: Iowa Town Adds Sexual Orientation to Human Rights Law 08 FEB 06
R2.3 The Advocate: Des Moines Adds Gays to Antidiscrimination Ordinance 11 JUL 2001
R2.2 Des Moines Register: Davenport Council Passes Gay Rights 03 MAR 00
R2.1 Cedar Rapids Gazette: Cedar Rapids Council Adds Gay Rights to Law 07 JAN 99
Courts & Tribunals
C3.3 Order: Business Leaders in Christ v. The University of Iowa et al. No. 3:17-cv-00080-SMR-SBJ PDF 180.19kb 23 JAN 18
R3.2 WashingtonBlade: Court rules for Iowa student group seeking to ban gay leaders 24 JAN 18
R3.1 The Advocate: Judge Strikes Down Iowa Governor's Executive Order 09-11 DEC 00
Gender Identity, Intersex,
Transgender, Transexual


Courts & Tribunals

On 07 June 2018, Judge Arthur Gamble in the District Court for Polk County ruled the state cannot deny transgender women Carol Ann Beal and Eerieanna Good, Medicaid coverage for sex reassignment surgery [C1.2], [R1.1]

C1.2 Ruling on Petitions for Judicial Review: Eerieanna Good v. Iowa Department of Human Services CVCV054956, 055470 PDF 316.56kb 06 JUN 18
R1.1 TampaBayTimes: Iowa judge rules transgender women deserve surgery coverage 07 JUN 18/td>
Hate Crimes Legislation/Cases/References
See also: [VIOLENCE]

Courts & Tribunals

In February 2001, a Polk County jury determined that two men accused of jeering at two drag queens last summer were not guilty of a hate crime [R1.1].

R1.1 The Advocate: Hate Crime Ruled Out in Transsexual Harassment Case 27 FEB 01

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Health, MedicalLegislation/Cases/References

Courts & Tribunals

On 07 June 2018, Judge Arthur Gamble in the District Court for Polk County ruled the state cannot deny transgender women Carol Ann Beal and Eerieanna Good, Medicaid coverage for sex reassignment surgery [C1.2], [R1.1]

C1.2 Ruling on Petitions for Judicial Review: Eerieanna Good v. Iowa Department of Human Services CVCV054956, 055470 PDF 316.56kb 06 JUN 18
R1.1 TampaBayTimes: Iowa judge rules transgender women deserve surgery coverage 07 JUN 18/td>
HIV Aids Legislation/Cases/References


On 30 May 2014, Governor Terry Branstad signed Senate File 2297 softening the punishment by making liable people who intend to transmit HIV or other infectious deseases without another person's knowledge or consent. Since 1998, Iowans living with HIV who knowingly exposed another person “in a manner that could result in the transmission” could be convicted of a felony and face up to 25 years in prison [L1.4], [R1.3].

On 01 May 2014, the legislature passed Senate File 2297, a measure lessening the penalties for people who unknowingly expose someone to HIV with no intention of infecting them and making people eligible for 25 year sentences only if they intend to transmit a disease without someone’s knowledge. The measure has yet to be signed by the Governor [R1.2].

In April 2004, the VA Medical Center in Iowa City took steps to consider an HIV-positive Illinois veteran who needed a liver transplant, against the federal Department of Veterans Affairs policy prohibiting organ transplants for those infected with HIV [R1.1].


Courts & Tribunals

On 13 June 2014, the Iowa Supreme Court majority overturned a guilty plea and conviction for Nick (Clayton) Rhoades for violating the state's HIV-specific law finding, “ … we are unable to take judicial notice that an infected individual can transmit HIV when an infected person engages in protected anal sex with another person or unprotected oral sex, regardless of the infected person's viral load …” [C2.8], [R2.7].

On 02 October 2013, the Court of Appeals of Iowa ruled Nick Rhoades' conviction for criminal transmission of HIV will stand, as his acts met the requirements for the crime. The Court cited a 2001 Iowa Supreme Court case, State v. Keene [C2.6], [R2.5].

On 11 September 2013, the Court of Appeals heard arguments in the appeal for post-conviction relief in the case of Nick Rhoades v. State of Iowa [R2.4].

In March 2010, Rhoades petitioned for post-conviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. In December 2011, the court denied his petition.

On September 11, 2009, Judge Bradley J Harris ended the prison sentence of Nick Rhoades, putting him on five years probation [R2.3].

On 01 May 2009, Nick Clayton Rhoades pleaded guilty to criminal HIV transmission, despite the fact that HIV transmission did not occur and that the opportunity for transmission was a first-time consensual sexual encounter between two gay men ­ a situation in which potential for HIV transmission should be assumed by both parties just out of common sense. He was sentenced by Judge Bradley J Harris to 25 years in prison and lifetime parole [R2.3].

In July 2003, the trial of Aaron James Dahlberg, charged with having sex with an Iowa man without telling him he was HIV positive was set to begin [R2.2].


In January 2001, it was alleged that Aaron James Dahlberg lied to a sex partner about his HIV status before having unprotected anal sex and he was facing felony criminal charges for possibly transmitting the virus [R2.1].

L1.4 Senate File 2297: An Act Relating to the Criminal Transmission of a Contagious or Infectious Desease 30 MAY 14
R1.3 OneIowa: Iowa revamps harsh HIV criminalization law 04 JUN 14
R1.2 SFGN: Iowa Legislature Passes HIV Transmission Bill 02 MAY 14
R1.1 The Advocate: Iowa City VA Hospital Bucks Transplant Ban 29 APR 04
C2.8 Decision: Nick Rhoades v. State of Iowa No. 12-0180 PDF 141.91kb, 13 JUN 14
R2.7 HIV Plus: Iowa Supreme Court Overturns Nick Rhoades' Conviction for Criminal Transmission of HIV 13 JUN 14
C2.6 Opinion: Nick Rhoades v. State of Iowa No. 3-572/12-0180 PDF 146.05kb, 02 OCT 13
R2.5 DesMoinesRegister: Rhoades' conviction under HIV transmission law will stand, Iowa Court of Appeals rules 02 OCT 13
R2.4 LambdaLegal: Iowa Court of Appeals Hears Arguments in Lambda Legal HIV Criminalization Case 11 SEP 13
R2.3 AccessLine: Nick Rhoades 25-Year Sentence Cut Short, But He's Hardly a Free Man 14 SEP 09
R2.2 Des Moines Register: Rare HIV Trial Begins Next Week in Iowa City 18 JAN 03
R2.1 The Advocate: Iowa Man Faces Charge of Knowingly Passing on HIV to Sex Partner 13 JUL 01
Marriage Legislation/Cases/References


On 27 April 2009, Iowa began processing same-sex marriage applications. Marriages are only allowed to take place from 30 April because the state requires a three-day waiting period [R1.5].

On 03 April 2009, the Supreme Court ruled [C2.4] that the Iowa Code, Section 595.2 was unconstitutional.

See 2. Courts & Tribunals below.

On 01 February 2011, the House voted 62–37 in favour of House Joint Resolution 6 that proposes a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality. The House judiciary committee, earlier passed the resolution by a vote of 13–8 [R1.4].

On 27 January 2011, Senators voted 26–24 along party lines, blocking a constitutional amendment measure banning same-sex marriage from going to the voters. A house committee had voted to advance the measure to the full House [R1.3].

On 09 February 2010, Republican lawmakers failed to garner enough support to bring a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage to the floor of the Iowa legislature [R1.2].


In 1998, an anti-gay marriage bill was adopted after two previous attempts failed.

The Iowa Code, Section 595.2: "Only a marriage between a male and female is valid" [R1.1]


Courts & Tribunals

On 17 October 2012, Grundy County Deputy Clerk of Court Brigitte Van Nice was reportedly charged with two counts of forgery and one count of perjury arising out of her allegedly filing a marriage certificate falsely claiming she had officiated at the wedding of Joab Penney, 28, of Williston and his former partner, Joseph Parker from Florida on Valentines day, and that there were two female witnesses to the ceremony, despite never having met the men, who had never travelled to Iowa for a ceremony [R2.5].

On 03 April 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court held in Varnum v Obrien [C2.4] that the Iowa statute limiting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution [R2.4].


In December 2005, the gay advocacy group Lambda Legal announced that it is suing the state of Iowa on behalf of six same-sex couples seeking the right to marry across the state [R2.3].

In June 2005, the Iowa supreme court refused to tamper with a lower-court decision that dissolved the civil union of two women, saying the conservative plaintiffs who sued were not harmed and had no standing in the case [R2.2].


On 14 November 2003, District Judge Jeffrey A. Neary, granted the dissolution of a civil union in the Woodbury County District Court without a hearing. Both parties had a stipulated agreement, and Neary signed the dissolution decree before realizing the relationship he was ending involved two women [R2.1].

R1.5 Iowa begins processing gay marriage applications 27 APR 09
R1.4 The Advocate: Iowa House Votes For Marriage Ban 01 FEB 11
R1.3 The Advocate: Iowa Dems Block Marriage Repeal 28 JAN 11
R1.2 The Advocate: Iowa Lawmakers Fail to Push Marriage Ban 10 FEB 10
R1.1 Des Moines Register: Iowa laws and gay ruling don't mesh 24 NOV 03
Courts & Tribunals
C2.4 Varnum v Brien No. 07–1499 03 APR 09
Iowa Supreme Court News Release and Summary 03 APR 09
R2.4 Iowa Supreme Court: Iowa Supreme Court Rules in Marriage Case 03 APR 09
R2.3 The Advocate: Same-sex Couples Sue for Marriage in Iowa 14 DEC 05
R2.2 The Advocate: Iowa High Court Upholds Lesbian Divorce 21 JUN 05
R2.1 Sioux City Journal: Divorce Granted to Lesbian Couple Doesn't Mean Iowa Accepts Union 06 DEC 03
Parenting, Adoption, Fostering Legislation/Cases/References


Iowa law does not bar adoptions by gay people. It says simply that people who may adopt can be unmarried adults, a "husband and wife together" or stepparents [R1.3].

Iowa law does not bar the fostering of children by gay people [R1.2].

In 1996, the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association awarded its Foster Parents of the year award for the Des Moines region to a gay couple, prompting calls that lesbians and gay men should not be allowed to foster or adopt [R1.1].


Courts & Tribunals

On 15 August 2017, Rachel and Heidi McFarland were reportedly awarded $3.25M by a jury for emotional distress caused by their attorney Jason Rieper who negligently failed to obtain a release of custody document signed by birth mother Markeya Atkins to complete formal adoption of baby Gabriel McFarland. The baby was returned to Atkins and subsequently murdered by his father Drew James Weehler-Smith, 17, on 22 April 2014. Weehler-Smith pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in January 2015 and received a 50-year prison sentence [R2.11].

On 03 May 2013, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Heather Martin Gartner and Melissa Gartner v. Iowa Department of Public Health that the department of health in the state must name both same-sex spouses as parents, on a child's birth certificate [C2.10], [R2.9]. See also [R2.1] - [R2.5].

On 12 December 2012, District Judge Robert Hutchinson in the Polk County Court ordered a child's death certificate to list both same-sex parents names, noting same-sex couples should be afforded the same rights as biological or adoptive parents [C2.8], [R2.7].

On 26 October 2012, Judge Robert Hutchison in the District Court for Polk County heard arguments in Jessica Marie Buntemeyer and Jennifer Lee Buntmeyer v. Iowa Department of Public Health No. CV 9041, seeking a new death certificate for their stillborn child as the issued certificate omitted Jenny Buntemeyer's name [R2.6].

On 06 February 2012, the Attorney General Tom Miller's office filed a short notice with the court saying the Iowa Department of Public Health “appeals to the Supreme Court of Iowa from the final ruling in Heather Martin Gartner & Melissa Gartner v. Iowa Department of Public Health on 04 January 2012.” [R2.5].


On 04 January 2012, in the Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Eliza J Ovrum concluded pursuant to Varnum v. Brien, where a married woman gives birth to a baby conceived through use of an anonymous sperm donor, the Department of Public Health should place her same-sex spouse's name on the child's birth certificate without requiring the spouse to go through an adoption proceeding [C2.4], [R2.3].

On 07 November 2011, Iowa District Judge Eliza Ovrom heard arguments to list both married same-sex partners as parents on the birth certificate of their daughter. She will issue a written ruling at a later date [R2.2].

In February 2011, Heather Lynn Martin Gartner, 39 (the biological mother and the sole parent listed on the girl's birth certificate), and Melissa McCoy Gartner, 40, of Des Moines, refiled a lawsuit against the Iowa Department of Public Health in an effort to have both their names placed on their daughter's birth certificate. Heather and Melissa Gartner were legally married in Polk County three months before the girl was born. Their original suit was dismissed on a technicality [R2.1].

R1.3 Des Moines Register: Iowa A State That Allows Gays to Adopt 18 MAR 02
R1.2 Iowa City Press-Citizen: Group Opposes Adoption Ban 25 FEB 03
R1.1 Melbourne Star Observer: Gay Couple 'Best Parents' 07 JUN 96
2. Courts & Tribunals
R2.11 TheDesMoinesRegister: Attorney: Ankeny couple gets $3.25M after adopted son killed by birth father 16 AUG 17
C2.10 Opinion: Heather Martin Gartner and Melissa Gartner v. Iowa Department of Public Health No. 12-0243 PDF 151.16kb, 03 MAY 13
R2.9 PinkNews: Iowa Supreme Court rules that birth certificates must name both same-sex parents 03 MAY 13
C2.8 Ruling on Application for Judicial Review: Jessica M & JJennifer L Buntemeyer v. Iowa Department of Public Health CV 9041 PDF 223.39kb, 12 DEC 12
R2.7 KCRG: Iowa Court Orders Same-Sex Couple Listed on Death Certificate 17 DEC 12
R2.6 KSFY: Same-sex couple suing over death certificate 28 OCT 12
R2.5 WCF Courier: Iowa appeals same-sex birth ruling 06 FEB 12
C2.4 Heather Martin Gartner & Melissa Gartner v. Iowa Department of Public Health PDF 119.70kb, 04 JAN 12
R2.3 USA Today: Iowa same-sex parents win birth certificate lawsuit 05 JAN 12
R2.2 DesMoines Register: Judge will rule later on gay rights case 07 NOV 11
R2.1 Chicago Tribune: Iowa women refile birth certificate lawsuit 07 MAR 11
Violence: Bullying, Domestic Violence, Harassment, Vilification Legislation/Cases/References

Courts & Tribunals

On 07 June 2013, a Council Bluffs Iowa jury found employees or agents of Council Bluffs property management company New Life Multi-Family Management, LLC harassed and discriminated against two tenants and awarded $147,000 in damages ($22,000 in economic damages and $50,000 in emotional distress damages and $75,000 in punitive damages) [R1.1].

R1.1 Iowa Civil Rights commission: Iowa Jury Awards $147,000 in Damages 10 JUN 13

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