Monday, April 27, 2009

Iowa Makes History . . . Again

This morning has been a long time coming for lesbian and gay couples in the heartland.

Starting today, Iowa will begin issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples, following the historic decision recognizing full marriage equality in the state, where the official motto, appropriately enough, is "Our Liberties We Prize, and Our Rights We Will Maintain."

As this morning's USA Today reports, there are more than a few anxious couples waking up early to tie the knot.

"Shelley Wolfe and Melisa Keeton plan to be at the Polk County Recorder's office before it opens this morning," the paper reported, noting that, "Today is the first day same-sex couples can apply for a marriage license in Iowa. The Des Moines couple hopes to be among the first to get one, then get a judge to waive the three-day wait to marry."

"We took a lot of time thinking about what marriage meant to us," Keeton says. "For us, it was binding."

And, as Sunday's New York Times reported, this morning will be one of many historic days brought about in the state by a court that has often unexpectedly paved the way for progress and a people who have embraced a heartland mantra of "live and let live."

"In 1839, the Supreme Court for what was then the territory of Iowa refused to recognize a slave as a possession, years before the United States Supreme Court would rule in an opposite fashion, against Dred Scott," the Times noted. "In 1868 and 1873, the court issued rulings favoring desegregating schools and public accommodations, almost a century before the United States Supreme Court heard Brown v. Board of Education. Iowa was the first state, in 1869, to permit women to practice law."

Mark S. Kende, a law professor at Drake University, told the Times that, when reading the justices' historic opinion in the marriage case, ". . . you can see how they drew on the heritage of Iowa in the area of equality and seemed to see their own decision in that context."

But for countless couples around the state and throughout the heartland (Iowa does not have a residency requirement for marriage), the justices did something singularly unique and powerful: They recognized the value, and validity, of their relationships, too.

And for the rest of the country - where the Iowa decision has already helped move lawmakers to consider marriage equality in places like New York, too - Iowa is widely seen as being at the forefront of history again.

PFLAG National congratulates all of the couples marrying in Iowa, including PFLAGers Bill Musser and Otter Dreaming, who will be applying for their licenses today and, like many couples, asking the state to waive the 3-day waiting period before being married.

(For more information on the historic case that brought marriage equality to Iowa, visit Lambda Legal's website.)

Update: You can weigh in on marriage equality in Iowa by joining the discussion at On Top Magazine. To log on and comment, click here.