Friday, August 31, 2007

Gay Couples Begin Applying for Marriage Licenses in Iowa

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.

© 2007

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