The fight for gay equality continues in the heart of rural America this week, as the Iowa Supreme Court considers a lawsuit brought by six same-sex couples denied marriage licences in the state.

Senior attorneys from Lambda Legal, joined by former Iowa solicitor general Dennis Johnson, will argue that denying marriage to same-sex couples violates the equal protection and due process guarantees in the state’s Constitution.

In August 2007 a trial court ruled that denying marriage to same-sex couples was unconstitutional.

In his ruling at Polk County Court, Judge Robert Hanson launched a stinging attack on the law on marriage as defined between a man and a woman, describing it as:

“The most intrusive means by the state to regulate marriage. This statute is an absolute prohibition on the ability of gay and lesbian individuals to marry a person of their choosing.”

Lambda Legal fights for full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV across the US through litigation, education and public policy work.

At least 17 briefs will be filed with the Iowa Supreme Court by a wide array of local and national organisations and individuals on behalf of the six same-sex couples and their families.

Among those speaking up for marriage equality are two former Iowa Lieutenant Governors, Joy Corning and Sally Pederson.

“We are proud of Iowa’s long history in ensuring fairness and equality for all Iowans,” they said in a joint statement.

“We signed our names to a brief submitted to the Court because we believe that the Court is the proper place to decide this matter.

“We have a keen understanding of the different roles the courts and legislature play in leading our state and treating all Iowans with fairness.”

Other supporters include doctors, social workers, scientists, historians and more than 200 clergymen and other faith leaders.

Dr. Dianne McBrien, a Clinical Associate Professor of Paediatrics, said:

“Many paediatricians and other child advocates feel that children born to or adopted by same-sex couples deserve the same legal, financial, and emotional security that the children of married heterosexual couples have.

“A substantial body of evidence has demonstrated that the children raised by gay parents are as emotionally healthy as those raised by heterosexual couples.

“A ban on gay marriage would disenfranchise the growing number of Iowa children being raised by same-sex couples.”

Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Professor of Law at the University of Iowa, pointed to Iowa’s history of marriage equality:

“We look back with pride that Iowa eliminated its ban on interracial marriage 116 years before the landmark US Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia which struck down such laws around the country and declared that marriage is a fundamental right,” she said.

“116 years from now I hope Iowans will be able to look back proudly at its place in history allowing same-sex couples to marry.”