A long-awaited decision on gay marriage
is expected to be handed down Friday morning by the Iowa Supreme
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 court heard oral arguments in
Varnum v. Brien in December.
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
court is expected to rule on the validity of Proposition 8 before
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.
In Iowa, one couple married on August
31, 2007 during a brief window when gay marriage was legal.
Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan, a pair of
Iowa State University undergraduates, managed to secure documents and
find a judge to marry them before the Iowa District Court ruling that
found the gay marriage ban unconstitutional was appealed to the Iowa
It was a rollercoaster day of
jubilation followed by disappointment 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.
If Iowa legalizes gay marriage, it will
become the first Midwestern state to do so. Gay marriage is legal in
two New England states – Connecticut and Massachusetts. A gay
marriage bill in Vermont appears likely to pass in the Legislature
this week, but a promised veto by Governor Jim Douglas threatens to
derail the effort.
Several, mostly Republican, lawmakers
attempted to ban gay marriage in the constitution but failed when
Democratic leaders blocked the idea. And with only two weeks left in
the legislative session, it appears unlikely lawmakers will tackle
“I would not anticipate that this
body [the Iowa Senate] 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,” openly gay state Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat
from Des Moines, told The Des Moines Register.
McCoy said he hopes the court will
legalize gay marriage. The decision is expected at 8:30AM.