Same-sex couples get marriage licenses in Iowa

I arrived at the Polk County Administrative Building at 7:15 a.m.  There were a few gay couples lined up, waiting to be the first to receive marriage licenses.  There were far more media (reporters and photographers) than there were gay couples and their witnesses.  (A couple must have a witness to obtain a marriage license.)


Above you will see a man interviewing Ingrid Olson and Reva Evans, one of the couples involved in the lawsuit which resulted in today's activities.  Reva is holding their son Jamison. 

The first couple in line arrived at 5:45 a.m. this morning.  Andrew Mahoney-Lamb and Grant Lamb of Des Moines have been a "couple" for three years.


"We had a commitment ceremony a year ago to the day, so now it's time to make it legal." Andrew Mahoney-Lamb told me.

In case you're just joining this program, already in progress, on April 3 the Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling that legalized gay marriage.  The ruling took effect this morning, Monday, April 27, 2009.  "It was wonderful to hear that now we can make everything legal." Andrew said.

Grant talked about the day of the ruling, too.

"When I read the 69 pages and I hit page 69 and it said, 'unanimous,' I was just mind-blogged and I emailed (Andrew) right away and of course the (Supreme Court's) server was down and we had to wait for the pdf files to come up from the judicial system, but once we read it, it was — still to this day I don't believe it and I won't believe it until the papers are signed."

The couple plans to apply for a waiver and try to get married tonight.  

SSmarriage-interview Radio Iowa's Dar Danielson was also on the scene, interviewing couples waiting in line.  The picture to the right shows Dar interviewing Chris Tabor and his partner, Rusty Warning, who drove to Des Moines from Jefferson City, Missouri to get a marriage license.  "We've been together for nine years…It matters to us," Tabor says of the license, which will not be recognized in their home state of Missouri. 

At about 7:45 a.m., Iowa Family Policy Council president Chuck Hurley came out of the building.  He had delivered — in his estimation – "a couple thousand" petition signatures to the Polk County Recorder's Office.  The petitioners urge the recorder not to issue the licenses this morning.  He ran into two women, standing outside, holding petition signatures they'd collected at church yesterday.

"This is very much a grassroots, citizen thing," Hurley said as he talked with the women, who wondered if they should hand Hurley their petitions and have him deliver them.  Hurley urged the women to make copies of their petitions before handing them over, though, so they could turn the list of names over to his group.

"If you can run copies today, I'd encourage you to do it," Hurley said.  The picture below shows Hurley speaking with the two women.  I was surprised there were no prayer vigils.  Our affiliate in Burlington emails there was a prayer vigil outside the Des Moines County Courthouse.  (Iowa trivia:  Des Moines, Iowa is in Polk County.  The county seat of Des Moines County is Burlington, Iowa.)


Hurley told reporters the Polk County Attorney and an assistant in the recorder's office were there to listen to Hurley read the petition and accept the petition signature.  "They also understood that we would provide free legal defense if they would decide to adopt the conscience clause and they refused to issue based on their right of conscience which has been recognized since before the Declaration of Independence."

So what was the reply?  Polk County's Recorder is issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as I type this.  Hurley says "a couple" of the other 98 county recorders in Iowa want to refuse and Hurley has advised those individuals to "make that decision public."  The picture below shows the media trong surrounding Hurley as he spoke.


The surprising part of today, from a reporter's perspective, was the small crowd.  Below, you will see the tranquil east facade of the Polk County Administrative Building. 


This is the view of the sidewalk that runs up to the Polk County Administrative Building from the corner of Second Street and Court Avenue. 


Below is a wide-angle photo of the group of same-sex couples and their witnesses and the media crowding around them, just outside the southeast entry door to the Polk County Administrative Building.


This is a picture of one of the handful of gay marriage opponents who were there this morning.  This man is handing out white wrist bracelets that say: "Traditional Marriage." 


UPDATE:  an interesting footnote, from Radio Iowa affiliate KLEM in Le Mars, Iowa.  There were two couples who applied for and received marriage licenses this morning at the Plymouth County Recorder's Office in the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars.  The couples got a waiver and "went upstairs to get married by Judge Neary."  That would be the Judge Neary who granted a divorce to a gay couple several years ago that made headlines.  Plymouth County Recorder Jolynn Goodchild reports to KLEM that both couples took all the proper paperwork back to the recorder's office to formalize their marriage contracts.

UPDATE II:  If you'd like to read the "procedendo" the Iowa Supreme Court issued at 7:52 a.m. — in legal-speak it's the order that allowed county recorders to start issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples — you may do so by clicking on this link.  Here is the Iowa Supreme Court's Varnum v Brien ruling issued April 3, 2009 which legalized gay marriage in Iowa. (Warning: there is heavy traffic on the SupCo website today as people try to download that Varnum v Brien pdf file.)

UPDATE III:  Blogger John Deeth writes about this morning's events in Johnson County/Iowa City — considered the most liberal area/county in the state. The Johnson County Recorder is quoted by Deeth as saying she "got choked up" with emotion when the Supreme Court's "procedendo" arrived on her Blackberry.

UPDATE IV:  Iowa's top Republicans issued a statement via email.  I've copied and pasted it below.

Joint statement from Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn, Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley, and House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen
Today marks the first day same-sex couples in Iowa will be able to seek marriage licenses as a result of the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to declare unconstitutional Iowa’s law that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Republicans in the Iowa Legislature made repeated attempts to begin the process of bringing to Iowans a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman only to be stopped cold by Democrat obstructionism and a lack of executive leadership from Governor Culver.
Whether it be the pursuit of a constitutional amendment to give Iowans the right to vote on this issue; the establishment of residency requirements to obtain marriage licenses; or the appointment of future judges–none of these options are possible as long as Chet Culver remains Governor and Democrats control the Iowa Legislature.
Democratic legislators who campaigned at home to protect marriage and then hid behind procedural votes in Des Moines to thwart the will of the people will have to answer for their hypocritical actions in 2010.
Iowans who are looking for leaders who will truly work and vote to protect marriage need look no farther than Iowa Republicans.

UPDATE V:  Congressman Steve King (R-Kiron) issued a statement late this morning.  Read it below.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Steve King made the following statement today as Iowa county recorders begin processing same-sex marriage applications.

“Iowa law says that marriage is between one man and one woman, yet activist judges molded Iowa’s Constitution to achieve their personal political ends. Ultimately, the people of Iowa should decide whether or not Iowa should allow same-sex marriage, not activist judges handing down extra-constitutional rulings.

“I believe the majority of Iowans are committed to marriage between one man and one woman, one of the essential building blocks of civilization. I will continue to work with the Iowa legislature to pass a Marriage Amendment to the Iowa Constitution, clarifying that marriage is between one man and one woman. Along with a constitutional amendment, the legislature must also enact marriage license residency requirements so that Iowa does not become the same-sex marriage Mecca for America.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Someday Republicans will start acting like a political party again–instead of like an evangelical church–and become more appealing to Iowa voters again.” – David Yepsen, Jan. 13, 2008
    I’m beginning to think they are intentionally trying to destroy themselves as a party.
    The media should just leave Hurley alone. All the attention he gets makes him think he’s the man, but really he’s just de mammon.

  2. Can the Courts really strike down a law passed by the legislature? Does Iowa have a different type of Constitution than the rest of the United States? I was under the impression that CONGRESS IS THE BRANCH AUTHORIZED TO MAKE LAWS, not the Courts…
    Seems to me some Judges should have to answer to the people.
    Do we write our judges?
    They don’t listen to petitions, and we don’t vote for them–and yet they are making laws…
    Do we need another Revolution?
    Preserving the true meaning of MARRIAGE and FAMILY is a big deal. What can we do? (The majority of Iowans who are against this…)