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Will Iowa Be First Mid-Western State To Step Into 21st Century With Gay Marriage?

April 2, 2009

Once the again the civil rights of some Americans hangs in the balance.  Will Iowa become the first mid-western state to step into the 21st century in regards to gay marriage?  Will gay couples be afforded the same 1,100 rights that heterosexual couples enjoy?  We will know in less than 24 hours.

A long awaited and significant Iowa Supreme Court case ruling on same-sex marriage will be released tomorrow, likely at 8:30 a.m.

The case, Varnum vs. Brien, involves six same-sex Iowa couples who sued Polk County Recorder Timothy Brien in 2005, after his office denied them marriage licenses. Polk County District Judge Robert Hanson sided with the couples in a ruling last year, but he suspended his decision until the high court speaks.

The case would have consequences outside the state’s borders. Iowa would become the first Midwestern state to allow same-sex marriage and the fourth in the nation if the court sides with the gay couples. Legal experts say such a decision would echo across the country and strengthen the gay rights movement.

Advocates say allowing same-sex unions is a matter of civil rights that would better allow gays and lesbians and their families protections for such matters as retirement, taxes and in medical decisions

The United States General Accounting office in has listed more than 1,100 benefits the government provides to legally married couples. People in committed relationships but unable to marry are denied most of those benefits.

If the court tosses the issue back into the hands of the Iowa Legislature, there are only about two weeks or so left in this session.

Openly gay state Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, said he doubts lawmakers would take any action on gay marriage this late.

“I would not anticipate that this body would want to take any action in the final, waning days of the session because there’s so many other issues involving the budget and taxes but that would be a decision for the leaders to make,” McCoy said.

In fact, McCoy said, lawmakers shouldn’t make any quick decisions.

“I think it’s really important that people take a deep breath and let it soak in and then have some discussion,” he said. “Everyone will need time in this legislature to analyze the decision and to determine how that decision will impact Iowa and consider the ramifications both short term and long term.”

McCoy said he’s personally very excited that the decision will be released Friday. He said he hopes the ruling allows gay marriage in Iowa.

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