Same-Sex Couples Apply for Marriage Licenses in Iowa

Across Iowa, same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses on Monday after a state Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay unions took effect.

Officials at the Johnson County Recorder's Office said on Tuesday that 50 gay and lesbian couples registered yesterday. At the Polk County Recorder's Office, over 82 applications were received.

"This means we'll be able to get the same benefits as a married couple," Michelle Parsley, 33, of Bemidji told the Globe Gazette. Parsley registered for a marriage license with her partner of 10 years Angela Laurain, 35.

Same-sex marriage was legalized by the Iowa Supreme Court on April 3. The court ruled that the state's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which limited marriage to a man and a woman, was unconstitutional. Iowa became the third state to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Vermont followed suit days later through a vote of the legislature.

At least one couple, Melisa Keeton and Shelley Wolfe, in Iowa was allowed to exchange vows on Monday after getting a judge to waive the state's three-day waiting period before marriages are considered final.

The Rev. Peg Esperanza, a lesbian, of the Church of the Holy Spirit married the couple in front of the Polk County administrative offices in Des Moines and declared them "legally married."

In the midst of the rush of applications, some people went to the recorder's office to hand in signed petitions, asking that the office not issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples, according to the Globe Gazette.

"I believe that the law in Iowa says that marriage is between one man and one woman and I think what they're doing here is not good," said Kevin Henaman of Osage, as reported by the local newspaper. "I think we've overstepped the bounds. We've made an act, we've given rights to an act that doesn't have to stop here."

Some traditional family supporters are urging Iowans to back like-minded primary election candidates to take gay marriage to the people for a vote. A constitutional amendment may be their only way of overturning the state court's ruling and many say the majority of Iowans do not support same-sex marriage.

A poll by the University of Iowa showed only 26 percent of Iowans support gay marriage.

"[T]he people of Iowa who overwhelmingly support marriage as being one man and one woman only are now looking for leadership from the Republicans in the Iowa Senate," Eugene Delgaudio of Public Advocate of the United States – a group of young conservatives.

Marriage is a big issue for Republicans, but some say it may not be wise to make gay marriage the only issue on their agenda.

"[I]f Republicans let this be the only thing they talk about, they won't be successful in 2010," Doug Gross, a former GOP gubernatorial nominee, told The Associated Press.

"If you ask do you prefer a candidate who favors an amendment banning gay marriage over a candidate who does not, over 60 percent say yes," he said. But "Republicans have to have a broader agenda to win that broad range of voters in the middle."

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