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