An Iowa court official has been arrested on charges that she helped a gay couple from Florida get a marriage certificate even though the couple had never gone to Iowa for the ceremony.
Police arrested Grundy County Deputy Clerk of Court Brigitte Van Nice on Wednesday and charged her with two felony counts of forgery and one felony count of perjury
Van Nice, 42, was released from jail after she posted bond pending a court appearance that is scheduled for next week, according to court documents.
Iowa is one of six states that have passed legislation legalizing gay marriage, but it is thought to be the first case of same-sex marriage fraud, explained Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Larry Hedlund.
Investigators first uncovered the invalid certificate after one of the men contacted an attorney in Florida about getting a divorce, Hedlund said.
Prosecutor Jennifer Miller said charges will not be filed against the men, who believed they had been legally married.
"We determined that they basically were the ones that were duped," Miller told the Associated Press. "I don't think they were trying to fraudulently obtain a marriage license. They were told it was fine for them to not be in the state when they got married. I don't think they realized it was not going to be a valid marriage."
Miller explained that Van Nice was ordained to perform marriage ceremonies last year and that the men had contacted her to have her officiate their wedding after looking for Iowa counties where they could get married .
In February, Van Nice filed the marriage certificate at the county recorder's office, stating that she had officiated the couple's wedding and that there had been two women present as witnesses, according to a criminal complaint.
Investigators claim that there were never any witnesses and Van Nice had forged the signatures on the certificate. She was paid $150 for her services and is currently on paid administrative leave.