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Iowa Gay Marriage Ban Overturned

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Iowa Gay Marriage Ban Overturned

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: August 30, 2007 - 5:00 pm ET

(Des Moines, Iowa) A Des Moines judge late Thursday afternoon stuck down the state's law that prevents same-sex couples from marrying.

Judge Robert B. Hanson ruled that the state's so-called Defense of Marriage Act violates the Iowa state constitution.

In his decision, Hanson said, "Couples, such as Plaintiffs, who are otherwise qualified to marry one another may not be denied licenses to marry or certificates of marriage or in any other way prevented from entering into a civil marriage pursuant to Iowa Code Chapter 595 by reason of the fact that both persons compromising such a couple are of the same sex."

The case began in December 2005 when six same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses.

The couples are represented by Lambda Legal and former Iowa Solicitor General Dennis Johnson who is now in private practice.

"I have faith that once my fellow Iowans see the inherent injustice in leaving these families without the protections of marriage, they will support allowing these couples to marry," said Johnson outside the court when arguments were made in the case in May.

Johnson and Lambda argued that under the equal protection and due process guarantees in the Iowa State Constitution it is unlawful to bar same-sex couples from marrying.

Papers filed with the court included affidavits from the same-sex couples in the lawsuit explaining first-hand to the court why they want to marry and the harms they suffer from being denied this right.

Also included were friend of the court briefs by faith leaders and religious groups from across the state which support of the right for same-sex couples to marry.

In one amicus brief Dr. Michael Lamb, a world-renowned child developmental psychologist said that "children raised by gay and lesbian parents are as likely to be well-adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents."

The Iowa Civil Liberties Union also filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the couples on behalf of Iowa law professors and historians.

It is expected the case will be appealed and eventually go to the Iowa Supreme Court.

©365Gay.com 2007

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Gay Couples Begin Applying For Marriage Licenses In Iowa

by The Associated Press

Posted: August 31, 2007 - 11:00 am ET

(Des Moines, Iowa) Same-sex couples have begun applying for marriage licenses in Des Moines, following yesterday's ruling by a county judge striking down Iowa's decade-old gay marriage ban.

Less than two hours after the the ruling two Des Moines men applied for a marriage license.

A steady stream of same-sex couples followed Friday morning.

"I started to cry because we so badly want to be able to be protected if something happens to one of us," said David Curtis Rethmeier, 29, who was listed as the bride on that first marriage form, with Gary Allen Seronko, 51, as his groom.

Polk County Judge Robert Hanson cleared the way for the two men on Thursday when he ruled that a state law allowing marriage only between a man and woman violated the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection. (story)

The judge ordered local officials to process marriage licenses for the six gay couples who sued. With the ruling, gay couples across the state can now apply for a marriage license in the central-Iowa county.

County attorney John Sarcone said the county would appeal to the state Supreme Court, and he immediately sought a stay from Hanson that would prevent gay couples from seeking a marriage license until the appeal is resolved.

A hearing on the stay motion is likely next week, said Camilla Taylor, an attorney with Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights organization.

In the meantime, Deputy County Recorder Trish Umthun is taking calls from gay couples, five of them in the first hours after the judge filed his ruling Thursday afternoon.

The office's web site explaining how to apply for a marriage license still began with the words, "Marriages in Iowa are between a male and a female ...," on Friday morning, but Umthun expected a rush of applications through the day. The marriage license approval process takes three business days.

Republican House Minority Leader Christopher Rants, said the ruling illustrates the need for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

"I can't believe this is happening in Iowa," Rants said. "I guarantee you there will be a vote on this issue come January," when the Legislature convenes.

Gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts, and nine other states have approved spousal rights in some form for same-sex couples. Nearly all states have defined marriage as being solely between a man and a woman, and 27 states have such wording in their constitutions, according the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Dennis Johnson, the lawyer for the six gay couples who sued in 2005 after they were denied marriage licenses, had argued that Iowa has a long history of aggressively protecting civil rights in cases of race and gender.

The Defense of Marriage Act, which the Legislature passed in 1998 declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman, contradicts previous rulings regarding civil rights and is simply "mean spirited," he said.

Roger J. Kuhle, an assistant Polk County attorney, argued that the issue is not for a judge to decide.

©365Gay.com 2007

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Iowa Gay Marriages Abruptly Halted

by The Associated Press

Posted: August 31, 2007 - 12:00 pm ET

Updated 1:30 pm ET, 2:15 pm ET

(Des Moines, Iowa) Two men sealed the state's first legal same-sex marriage with a kiss Friday morning, less than 24 hours after a judge threw out Iowa's ban on gay marriage and about two hours before he put the ruling on hold.

It was a narrow window of opportunity.

Thursday afternoon, Polk County Judge Robert Hanson temporarily cleared the way for same-sex couples across the state to apply for marriage licenses in Polk County when he ruled that Iowa's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed marriage only between a man and a woman, violated the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection of six gay couples who had sued.

County attorney John Sarcone promised a quick appeal, and he asked Hanson to stay his ruling until the appeal was resolved.

A dozen gay and lesbian couples were waiting at the county recorder's office when it opened Friday morning.

By 11 a.m., 20 had applied for marriage licenses when Recorder Julie Haggerty announced that she had been instructed to stop accepting the applications. Hanson told The Associated Press about an hour and half later that he had formally stayed his ruling.

The judge's stay means the recorder's office is not permitted to accept any more marriage applications from gay couples until the Iowa Supreme Court rules on the county's appeal.

Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan were among the lucky few to get their application through.

The marriage license approval process normally takes three business days, but Fritz and McQuillan took advantage of a loophole that allows couples to skip the waiting period if they pay a $5 fee and get a judge to sign a waiver.

Friday morning, the Rev. Mark Stringer declared the two Iowa State University students legally married in a wedding on Unitarian minister's front lawn in Des Moines.

"This is it. We're married. I love you," Fritz told McQuillan after the ceremony.

Fritz explained their hurry: "We're both in our undergrad programs and we thought maybe we'd put it off until applying at graduate school, but when this opportunity came up, we thought maybe we wouldn't get the opportunity again."

Republican House Minority Leader Christopher Rants, said the ruling illustrates the need for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

"I can't believe this is happening in Iowa," Rants said. "I guarantee you there will be a vote on this issue come January," when the Legislature convenes.

Gov. Chet Culver left open the possibility of state action.

"While some Iowans may disagree on this issue, I personally believe marriage is between a man and a woman," the governor said.

Gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts, and nine other states have approved spousal rights in some form for same-sex couples. Nearly all states have defined marriage as being solely between a man and a woman, and 27 states have such wording in their constitutions, according the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Dennis Johnson, a lawyer for the six gay couples who sued after being denied marriage licenses in 2005, said Iowa has a long history of aggressively protecting civil rights in cases of race and gender. The Defense of Marriage Act contradicts previous rulings regarding civil rights and is simply "mean spirited," he said.

Roger J. Kuhle, an assistant Polk County attorney, argued that the issue was not for a judge to decide.

Hanson ruled that the state law banning same-sex marriage must be nullified, severed and stricken from the books, and the marriage laws "must be read and applied in a gender neutral manner so as to permit same-sex couples to enter into a civil marriage ..."

"This is kind of the American Dream," said plaintiff Jen BarbouRoske, of Iowa City. "I'm still feeling kind of shaky. It's pure elation. I just cannot believe it."

Kate Varnum of Cedar Rapids, another plaintiff, said she was elated but expected more legal battles: "I don't expect this to be the last one."

Even though the county Web site explaining how to apply for a marriage license still began with the words, "Marriages in Iowa are between a male and a female ...," several couples were waiting when the county recorder's office opened at 7:30 a.m. Friday.

Katy Farlow and Larissa Boeck, both Iowa State University students, were waiting in lawn chairs outside.

"This might be our only chance," Farlow said. "We already knew we were spending the rest of our lives together."

©365Gay.com 2007

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