David Twombley, a pioneer among LGBTQ Iowans' fight for access to marriage, has died – Des Moines Register


Iowa has lost a man who helped bring marriage equality to the Hawkeye State.

David Twombley died Thursday, One Iowa, the state’s largest LGBTQ organization, announced in a statement. He was 77 years old. The longtime Iowa music teacher and his partner, Larry Hoch, were one of the plaintiff couples in Varnum v. Brien, the Iowa Supreme Court case that brought same-sex marriage to the state.

“David Twombley was not only a courageous trailblazer for LGBTQ equality in our state, but a kind and generous man,” One Iowa Executive Director Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel said in the statement. “He will be greatly missed by his friends at One Iowa, and we are thinking of his friends and family during this difficult time. Our state’s movement for equality would not be where it is today without David Twombley, and we will keep him in our hearts as we fight to carry on his legacy.”

Twombley and Hoch married after the high court’s ruling, living together in Urbandale until Hoch, a middle school teacher from New York, died in 2016. The two frequented events for One Iowa, which was key in the fight for same-sex marriage and now works to protect LGBTQ Iowans’ rights and dignity.

Tom Witosky, a Register investigative reporter for more than three decades until 2012, co-authored a 2015 book on the marriage-equality movement in Iowa. Much of one chapter of “Equal Before the Law: How Iowa Led Americans to Marriage Equality” is devoted to Hoch and Twombley’s relationship and their efforts in the fight for LGBTQ rights.

“He will be missed by a lot of people who really did care for him,” Witosky, 67, said Thursday evening after learning of Twombley’s death. “It’s just a sad day.”

Witosky, who wrote the book with fellow former Register reporter Marc Hansen, said Twombley and Hoch were key to the case because of their age. The two 60-somethings, who at the time had been together for 12 years, could describe decades of living in secret, something other younger plaintiff couples couldn’t illustrate for the court’s justices.

“They provided a level of credibility that was necessary for people to understand what (the fight for marriage equality) was about.

“After our book came out, we did several appearances with Larry and David, and what I discovered was younger folks in various places were interested in their story,” Witosky said, “and had an appreciation for what they had been through.

“(Hoch and Twombley) had been through the era when you couldn’t talk about it. Essentially, they were being thwarted from being able to form a family.”

One Iowa’s statement did not provide a cause of death. Calls to One Iowa representatives were not returned Thursday night. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Follow the Register on Facebook and Twitter for more news. Tyler Davis can be contacted at tjdavis@dmreg.com or on Twitter @TDavisDMR.

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