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Same-sex marriage in Iowa

Same-sex marriage in the U.S. state of Iowa was allowed for a short time from August 30 to August 31, 2007, in Polk County as a result of a ruling by Robert Hanson, a judge in the Polk County District Court, in Varnum v. Brien. The ruling was made as a result of a suit brought against Polk County by six same-sex couples who had been denied marriage licenses. Hanson's ruling states, in part, that
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 person comprising such a couple are of the same sex.

Polk County has appealed the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court, which will hear arguments in the case on December 9, 2008. Within two hours of the publication of the ruling on August 30, two men from Des Moines submitted an application for marriage to the county recorder; their application was accepted. The next morning, several couples were able to apply for marriage licenses before Judge Hanson issued a verbal stay of his ruling pending the county's appeal. For the time being, same-sex civil marriages are no longer being performed in Iowa.

The first same sex couple to legally marry in Iowa were Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan, both residents of Ames and students at Iowa State University. Iowa marriage law requires a three-day waiting period between the initial application for a marriage license and the time the marriage becomes official, unless this waiting period is waived by a judge which is commonly granted when requested. Fritz and McQuillan were the only couple to receive such a waiver before Hanson issued his stay order. After receiving the waiver and applying for a marriage license on the morning of August 31, the couple was married in a short ceremony that morning by a Unitarian Universalist minister on the minister's front lawn in Des Moines.

Two other Ames residents who applied for a marriage license before the stay, Terry Lowman and Mark Kassis, were married on September 2 in a ceremony at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames. However, because Lowman and Kassis' three-day waiting period was not waived, and because the stay was issued before the waiting period had expired, their marriage is not currently recognized by the state of Iowa.

As a result of Hanson's ruling, a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage was proposed in the state legislature but did not pass in 2008. If approved in 2009, the Iowa Legislature must approve it again in 2011 before it can be on the ballot in Iowa.

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