Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Same-sex couples across Iowa apply to marry

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Same-sex couples began applying for marriage licenses at government offices across Iowa on Monday, and at least one lesbian couple tied the knot in a ceremony in Des Moines.

Melisa Keeton and Shelley Wolfe were declared "legally married" by pastor Pat Esperanaza during a ceremony in front of Polk County administrative offices in Des Moines. It didn't take long before they were referring to one another as "wife."

Earlier, the couple was able to get a judge to waive the state's three-day waiting period before marriages are considered final.

A handful of Iowa's largest counties were seeing a rush right away, but foot traffic from same-sex couples began to slow toward midmorning.

In eastern Iowa, Johnson County Recorder Kim Painter, Iowa's only openly gay recorder, said when she saw the court's declaration, "We rolled open our windows and we've been busy."

She said that within the first half hour they had accepted about a half dozen applications and had about 10 more couples waiting to file. Some waited outside on the street under a tent and sipped coffee in what Painter called a "festive atmosphere."

Painter said she and her partner plan to apply to be married this week.

Rumors surfaced over the past week that some recorders would refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples over conflicts with their personal beliefs. Some conservative groups and lawmakers were accused of trying to recruit recorders to refuse the licenses.

State agencies sent out information to recorders statewide last week saying they could be removed from their positions if they don't follow the law and issue the licenses.

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