Thursday, April 02, 2009

Iowa Gay Marriage Ruling Due Friday

Painter Prepares for Possibility of Gay Marriages

The Johnson County Recorder said she's preparing for the possibility that gay marriage will be legal in Iowa tomorrow. But Kim Painter said she anticipates some delay will be included in the Varnum v. Brien ruling. The ruling is scheduled to be posted on the Iowa Supreme Court web site by 8:30 Friday.

"I think it's very likely there will be some sort of stay" to allow more preparation time, said Painter, adding that the Supreme Court would not want to create 'stampede' situations at courthouses. But if the Court's ruling is effective immediately, Painter said she would promptly begin issuing licenses.

"I'm checking with the Department of Public Health on the forms," said Painter. "Do we have to cross off 'bride' and 'groom?' I don't want some bureaucrat to invalidate my marriages."

Painter said she is also working with the county attorney and sheriff in preparation for Friday morning. She said another possibility would be that the Court rules the marriage law unconsitutional but sends the matter back to the legislature for resolution. "The legislature is limited on how quickly it can act--two General Assemblies."

Most observers had expected the ruling to come after this year's Legislative session had ended. If the ruling is in favor of gay marriage, Republicans are expected to pursue a constitutional amendment. But that would likely stall in the Senate, if not in both chambers. If an amendment would pass two Legislatures, final approval would be up to the voters.

Painter, who chaired the Iowa State Association of Counties last year, was the first openly LGBT elected official in Johnson County history when first elected in 1998 (the Iowa City council now has two LGBT members). She said it would be "a horrible ruling" if the Court overturned Varnum v. Brien and held that Iowa's opposite sex only marriage law is constitutional.

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