Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples
applied for marriage licenses in Iowa on Monday, the first day an
Iowa Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage became effective.
The Des Moines Register is
reporting that at least 360 gay couples, including 26 out-of-state
couples, were granted marriage licenses during the first full day of
legal gay marriage in Iowa.
The first to marry in Polk County were
a lesbian couple. Shelley Wolfe, 38, and Melisa Keeton, 31, received
a waiver from the customary three-day waiting period because Keeton
is 25 weeks pregnant. The pair were married by their pastor, Rev.
Peg Esperanza of the Church of the Holy Spirit, on the steps of the
Polk County building. The ceremony lasted 5 minutes and the two
women were joined just past 10AM.
Threatened disruptions by anti-gay
marriage foes appear to have fizzled.
Chuck Hurley, a former legislator who
is the head of the Iowa Family Policy Center, a group that advocates
against gay marriage, delivered “several thousand” petition
signatures to Polk County Recorder Julie Haggerty that urged her to
deny marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples and break the law.
Afterwards, he spoke to reporters outside the building.
Hurley said that at least one county
recorder was prepared to resign over the issue, but refused to reveal
“I told them we would defend them all
the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. If they exercise their right of
conscience and if the attorney general or others in Iowa, county
attorneys or others, have a heavy hand and they try to force a county
recorder to do something against their right of conscience, that is
an offense against the U.S. Constitution and that will put this
matter into federal court. We are not telling county recorders what
to do, we are giving them their constitutional options.”
Earlier in the day, Democratic Governor
Chet Culver instructed county recorders to follow the law and grant
marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
“This is not an option. This is a
duty and a responsibility that these elected officials have under
Iowa law,” Culver said later in the day. “And they will be
expected to follow that. And I believe they will.”
There were no reports of county
recorders refusing gay couples marriage licenses, but many recorders
have yet to be tested.
A lesbian couple of 25 years with two
sons, age 13 and 17, called it a bit “anti-climatic.”
“Twenty-five years of married life,
it kind of seems silly to organize a ceremony,” Lori Blachford,
who's preparing to marry Karen Utke in the summer, said. “But
we're thrilled to be able to do it.”