Sunday, December 07, 2008

Iowa Supreme Court to hear gay marriage case this week

The Iowa Supreme Court this week will hear a same-sex marriage case that could become a national victory for the gay rights movement or a chance to reinforce Iowa's decade-old gay marriage ban.

Oral arguments begin Tuesday. Varnum vs. Brien, could make Iowa the first state in the Midwest to legalize same-sex marriage.

Couples filed lawsuits in 2005 after the Polk County recorder denied them marriage licenses. Last year, Polk County district Judge Robert Hanson declared the marriage ban unconstitutional and ignited a legal fire storm. Hanson later suspended his ruling until the Iowa Supreme Court decides the case.

Camilla Taylor, senior legal counsel for the national gay-rights group Lambda Legal, which helped bring the case, said the couples who filed the lawsuit are optimistic they will prevail.

The Iowa high court, she said, has traditionally led the nation on civil rights issues. For instance, she said, the court eliminated a ban on interracial marriage more than a century before the U.S. Supreme Court declared such laws unconstitutional.

Most Iowa Supreme Court rulings take two to six months to deliver after oral arguments, Iowa Judicial Branch spokesman Steve Davis said.

The high court acknowledged the case's high profile last week by extending the length of oral arguments and creating a special Web page for the case at Such decisions are rare and generally reserved for complex cases, Davis said.

Court administrators also plan to stream the oral arguments live on the Supreme Court Website.


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