Two thoughts: 1) Wow! and 2) Particularly considering it just so happens to be Iowa, it will be extra interesting to see how this ongoing story will play out alongside the presidential primary election.
From the Chicago Tribune:
DES MOINES, Iowa – A Polk County judge on Thursday struck down Iowa’s law banning gay marriage and ordered the county recorder to permit gay and lesbian couples to marry.
Less than two hours after word of the ruling was publicized, two Des Moines men applied at the Polk County recorder’s office for a marriage license, and for the first time the application was accepted. The process of granting a license to marry in Iowa takes three days.
Gary Allen Seronko, 51, was listed as the groom and David Curtis Rethmeier, 29, the bride on the application.
“I started to cry because we so badly want to be able to be protected if something happens to one of us,” Rethmeier said.
Deputy Recorder Trish Umthun said she took five telephone calls from gay couples after the judge filed his ruling Thursday afternoon.
“They say we heard about the judge’s ruling,” she said. “If we’re a same-sex couple can we apply for a marriage license?”
Umthun said she told them they must bring a witness to sign documents with the couple.
The office, which opens at 7:30 a.m. Friday, is expecting a rush of applications.
Gay couples from anywhere in Iowa could apply for a marriage license in Polk County, the state’s most populous county.
The ruling by Judge Robert Hanson concluded that the state’s prohibition on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. He ordered the Polk County recorder to issue marriage licenses to six gay couples who filed a lawsuit.
“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.”
Camilla Taylor, an attorney with Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights organization, said the ruling requires “full equality for all Iowans, including gay and lesbian Iowans and their families.”
“The Iowa Constitution has lived up to its promises of equality for everyone,” she said.
Polk County will appeal the ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court, County Attorney John Sarcone said.
The county immediately filed a motion for a stay from Hanson, which if granted would prevent anyone from seeking a marriage license until an appeal could be heard.
A hearing is likely to be held on the stay motion next week, said Taylor.
Sarcone said the case will be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, which could refer it to the Iowa Court of Appeals, consider the case itself or decide not to hear the case.
Des Moines lawyer Dennis Johnson represented the six gay couples who filed the lawsuit after they were denied marriage licenses. He called the ruling “a moral victory for equal rights.”
Johnson argued that Iowa has a long history of aggressively protecting civil rights in cases of race and gender. He said the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Legislature passed in 1998, contradicts previous court rulings regarding civil rights and should be struck down.
Johnson called the Defense of Marriage law “mean spirited” and said it was designed only to prohibit gays from marrying. He said it violates the state constitution’s equal protection and due-process clauses.
Lambda Legal, which spearheaded a same-sex marriage drive across the country, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the gay and lesbian couples in Polk County District Court on Dec. 13, 2005.
Roger J. Kuhle, an assistant Polk County attorney, argued that the issue is not for a judge to decide.
Rachel Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the conservative Iowa Family Policy Center, which opposes gay marriage, said the decision will be appealed.
“We’re very disappointed and will pursue to the next level of courts,” she said.
In his ruling, Hanson said the state law allowing marriage only between a man and a woman violates the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection.
“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 … by reason of the fact that both persons comprising such a couple are of the same sex,” he said.
The judge said 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…”
Gov. Chet Culver issued a statement stating his opposition to gay marriage.
“While some Iowans may disagree on this issue, I personally believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” Culver said.
Culver left the option open for state action.
“I will continue to follow this matter closely as it continues through the judicial system before determining whether any additional legislative actions are appropriate or necessary,” he said in the statement.
State Sen. Ron Wieck, R-Sioux City, promised the Legislature would address the issue.
“We’ll look at something we can do legislatively,” Wieck said.
House Minority Leader Christopher Rants, R-Sioux City, said the judge’s ruling illustrates the need for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
“I can’t believe this is happening in Iowa,” he said. “I guarantee you there will be a vote on this issue come January.”
Sarcone, the Polk County attorney, said the arguments in the case were similar to those made in litigation around the country.
“I know Judge Hanson took a lot of time with it,” Sarcone said. “He made his decision and we respectfully disagree.”
Kate Varnum, another plaintiff, said she was elated but expected more legal battles.
“I don’t expect this to be the last one,” said Varnum, of Cedar Rapids.
Associated Press writers Henry C. Jackson and Nafeesa Syeed in Des Moines contributed to this report.
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