More than 380 same-sex couples felt what it feels like to be equal yesterday in Iowa. They applied for, and were granted, marriage licenses under a state Supreme Court ruling that gave them marital rights equal to those of heterosexuals. And dozens of those applicants were granted waivers of Iowa’s traditional three-day waiting period and wed almost instantly. They were celebrated by friends and family in Iowa, and around the world.
Shelley Wolfe and Melisa Keeton, of Des Moines, were the first gay couple in Polk County to marry under the new ruling. Judge Karen Romano quickly agreed to waive the waiting period. The women have been together nearly three years and have a young son, Baxter, who played a part in a religious ceremony the women had in 2007. Melissa Keeton, who is pregnant with the couple's second child, said, “I’ve had a lot of medical issues. To me, it’ll be a lot less stressful because we’ll have legal rights. Really, today is about making it legal.”
Wolfe and Keeton asked the Reverend Peg Esperanza of the Church of the Holy Spirit to officiate at their ceremony, which took place on the courthouse steps just two hours after they applied for a marriage license.
"Your lives, girls, have already been entwined as a loving unit. The contract of marriage is most solemn and is not to be entered into lightly but thoughtfully and seriously, with a deep realization of its obligations and its responsibility,” Esperanza said. “No other human ties are more tender, and no other vows more important than those that you are about to make today.”
But not all waivers were granted.
Tearese Bomar and Shamera Page requested a waiver, but it was turned down by Judge James Kelley, who would not comment on the decision, except to say the couple lacked the necessary emergency reason. The couple left dejected, but said they would try another judge. "I don’t believe he wanted us to get married today,” Tearese Bonner she said. “Why do we have to keep waiting when we’ve already waited long enough?”
Denny Schrock and Patrick Phillips-Schrock, a couple for five years, wore tuxedos to the recorder’s office in Des Moines. “I didn’t think this would happen in my lifetime,” said Phillips-Schrock, 58, a retired school teacher. “It’s incredible. In Iowa, of all places.”
Indeed. In Iowa. Of all places. Marriage is equal.
Judge Monica Ackley in Dubuque granted waivers to four couples, saying she rarely denies the requests. “I pretty much knew I was OK with it,” she said. “This is a kind of circumstance of hope. When we can present that kind of atmosphere to the general public, I’m all for that.”
Lori Blachford and Karen Utke, her partner of 25 years, also received a marriage license. Speaking to the media, Blanchford first introduced Utke as “my friend,” before settling on “my Karen.” They have two sons, age 13 and 17, conceived with an anonymous sperm donor. “They’ve grown up with us just acting like a married couple and in a normal family,” Blachford said. “But they understand the legal issues. They realize the inequity. They don’t understand why we should be treated any different.” The couple plan to marry in the summer.
“It’s a little anti-climactic to us,” Blachford said. “Twenty-five years of married life, it kind of seems silly to organize a ceremony. But we’re thrilled to be able to do it.”
Ramona Brown and Neva Stewart waited until late afternoon to file for a marriage license at the Pottawattamie County recorder’s office in Council Bluffs. Of the 28 same-sex couples who applied there, they were the 11th from Nebraska. But they were the only African-Americans. “I don’t feel any different,” Stewart, said. “We’re in love and wanted to do this for a while.” The Omaha couple with four children will marry in June. They hope to adopt another child and maybe move to Des Moines.“We’ve got a lot of big plans,” Stewart said.
Monday was a bit of a letdown for the Reverend Susan Millett of Burlington, who had expected to marry some same-sex couples. “I was ready for it. I was in my rock ’n’ roll clothes,” said Millett, dressed in a red blazer, black pants and a polka-dot boutonniere. She has six same-sex weddings--it's so nice to say 'weddings' rather than 'commitment ceremonies'--scheduled through June.
Still, as much joy and love and equality that was felt in Iowa yesterday was matched by ignorance and bigotry and, well, downright stupidity.
Opponents of marriage equality delivered petitions that asked county recorders to withhold applications from same-sex couples “until such conflict between the Supreme Court’s opinion and the law is addressed by a vote of the people of Iowa.” Such a vote probably would not take place until at least 2012, under rules specifying how the Constitution can be amended.
Yet not one recorder refused to issue licenses Monday, although some had misgivings, and one stomped a bit and threatened to resign; but he didn't, and what does that say about him?
Chuck Hurley, a former legislator and head of the Iowa Family Policy Center, said, “I told them we would defend them all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.” However, he would not identify the recorder threatening to quit.
Of course not. Hate works best when it's anonymous.
Protests were low-key, Hurley said, because most supporters of traditional marriage were “probably raising children, going to work.” Which is exactly what the gay couples would have been doing if marriage equality had existed all along.
The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors--all Repugnants--unanimously passed a resolution Monday that asked lawmakers to move against marriage equality. “We expect the Iowa Legislature to resolve the issue,” said Stephen Burgmeier, chairman of the three-member board. “We hope it either leads to a public vote or to a constitutional amendment.”
But marriage equality foes have no legal options because they were not a part of the lawsuit and no federal issues were raised in the case. Their only recourse appears to be a push for a constitutional amendment and, again, it wouldn't be on the ballot until 2012 at the earliest.
The Iowa Legislature did not address the issue before lawmakers adjourned the 2009 session Sunday. “They ran right out of town,” said Bryan English, a spokesman for Hurley’s group.
Probably because they understand equality? Just sayin'.
Some people were less than thrilled Monday in Orange City, where a dozen opponents of gay marriage shivered on the steps of the Sioux County Courthouse and waited to hand over their petition.
“We just feel this type of judicial decision not only doesn’t reflect what most Iowans believe, but it’s also harmful to our state and to our country,” said Kurt Korver, an Orange City doctor. “If a neighborhood is filled with homosexual couples, you wouldn’t want to have kids in that neighborhood. The purpose of government is to restrain bad behavior for the good of society.”
Really? A doctor still thinks homosexuality is a threat to children. He still trots out the pedophile argument, really? The only threat to children is growing up in a family that wants to legislate hate, a family that will raise more bigots.