It was on the day of August 31, 2007
when Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan, a pair of Iowa State University
undergraduates, became the only gay couple to legally wed in Iowa.
Their union was blessed
by a First Unitarian Church of Des Moines pastor after an Iowa
District Court judge ruled the state's ban on gay marriage
unconstitutional. But the opportunity to gay marry quickly
evaporated when a Polk County attorney filed an appeal to the Iowa
Jubilation quickly faded for dozens of
gay and lesbian couples who had applied for marriage licenses on the
same day but were unable to move fast enough to beat the state
Supreme Court's stay on the lower court's decision.
Next Tuesday the state Supreme Court
begins hearing arguments on that appeal.
At stake is whether Iowa's Defense of
Marriage Act (DOMA), a measure that has restricted marriage to
heterosexual partners for the last ten years, is unconstitutional.
The case is similar to a May California
Supreme Court ruling that found a 2000 voter-approved gay marriage
ban unconstitutional. About 18,000 gay and lesbian couples married
in California between June and November before Proposition 8 – the
constitutional amendment that once again banned gay marriage in the
state – was approved by a slim majority of voters.
The California Supreme Court has agreed
to review a challenge by gay marriage backers who argue Proposition 8
is invalid because it's not an amendment but a revision of the
constitution, which they say requires legislative action.
Whether events in California –
thousands of gay activists and allies began protesting passage of
Proposition 8 the day after Election Day – will influence the
outcome in Iowa remains to be seen.
“Iowa marriage law is settled, simple
and overwhelmingly supported by the people of Iowa,” Iowa Family
Policy Center Spokesman Bryan English told the Concord Monitor.
“We're just hopeful the Supreme Court will uphold the law.”
Meanwhile, gay marriage backers in New
Hampshire are gearing up for a lengthy debate on the subject – just
two years after civil unions were enacted in the state.
New Hampshire Representative Jim
Splaine (Democrat) says he plans to introduce legislation next month
to allow gay marriage in the state.
It's a familiar subject for Splaine,
who is openly gay and sponsored the New Hampshire civil union bill
that passed in 2007.
“From the beginning it's been a march
toward full marriage equality and the dialogue needs to continue,”
he told Fosters Daily Democrat. “I'm introducing the full
marriage equality legislation for 2009 because I believe the
conversation about breaking down this area of discrimination has to
But opponents of gay marriage in the
state have already announced their own plans to limit the influence
of legal gay marriage.
State Rep. David Hess (Republican) says
he will introduce legislation that would repeal the part of the civil
union bill that recognizes legal gay marriages performed elsewhere.
(Recognized as civil unions by the state.)
“If you have civil unions, I don't
know why there's a big push to get same-sex marriage,” he said.
Splaine, however, argues that civil
unions are secondary to marriage, saying there will always be a gray
area in the law that's up for interpretation.
“I think that eventually society will
come to appreciate that when two people find one another and are
willing to make a commitment to share their love and caring, that is
a wonderful thing and is good for all of us,” he said.
Currently, only Massachusetts and
Connecticut offer gay marriage. Another ten states recognize gay and
lesbian unions with either civil unions or domestic partnerships.