The BarbouRoskes, represented by Lambda Legal, are fighting to be recognized as a legally married couple in Varnum v. Brien
Dawn BarbouRoske, 39, and Jen BarbouRoske, 31, of Iowa City, have been together for more than 17 years. They have two children, McKinley, 9, and Breeanna, 5. Together, they formed Proud Families, a playgroup for gay and lesbian families in their area. They also both serve as Girl Scouts leaders and soccer coaches, and are active at their daughters’ elementary school.
After Jen delivered McKinley eight weeks prematurely, they realized that Dawn could be prevented from being with their daughter in the hospital because she was neither legally nor biologically related Jen and the baby, making an already stressful time more traumatic.
Because they were not married, they had to leave their daughter in the neonatal intensive care unit in order to seek the help of an attorney in drawing up documents to protect Dawn's parental rights. The experience highlighted for the couple just how important it is for them to be able to marry. “If we could be married, this would be a done deal,” Jen told The Daily Iowan.
Dawn later adopted both of her children in order to be legally recognized as their mother, but she still lacks legal ties to Jen.
Although Dawn and Jen receive same-sex partner benefits through the University of Iowa Health Care (UIHC), their premiums are higher and their coverage less substantial than that of married couples on the same plan.
The BarbouRoskes share a positive outlook about their case. “We’re asking for the same rights and opportunities that should be offered to all Iowans,” Jen told The Daily Iowan. “We’re just a kind of happy, average family.”