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Iowa Supreme Court To Issue Same-Sex Marriage Decision Friday

The legal challenge to Iowa’s same-sex marriage ban will finally come to a close tomorrow, when the Iowa Supreme Court issues its ruling in the case of Varnum vs. Brien. The Court is expected to post its decision on the Judicial Branch Web site by 8:30 a.m. Friday.

The case involves six same-sex Iowa couples who sued Polk County Recorder Timothy Brien in 2005 after his office denied them marriage licenses. The lawsuit argued that it would be unlawful to ban same-sex couples from marriage based on the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Iowa Constitution. The state’s Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1998 by a 40-9 margin in the Senate and an 89-10 margin in the House, defines marriage as being solely between a man and a woman.

Iowa District Court Judge Robert Hanson sided with the plaintiffs, but later put a hold on his decision awaiting a verdict from the Supreme Court. Justices heard oral arguments in December.

If the Court sides with the same-sex couples, Iowa would become the first Midwestern state to allow same-sex marriage and only the fourth in the nation. However, Iowa has no marriage residency requirement, which would mean couples could travel to the state from around the country to be legally married..

Republicans have tried unsuccessfully to pass an amendment to the state Constitution for many years defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Democrats have always countered that legislators should wait for the Court’s decision before taking such a step. It would take at least two years for an amendment to make it onto the ballot to be voted on by the general public.

Jason Hancock is a reporter for TWI’s sister site, The Iowa Independent.

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