DES MOINES, Iowa A gay rights organization filed a lawsuit on behalf of six gay and lesbian couples in Polk County District Court on Tuesday, asking for the right to marry for same-sex couples.
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the organization that spearheaded the same-sex marriage drive across the country, said it wants full recognition of the civil rights of gay couples.
“There are thousands of couples in Iowa who are eager for the protections and security that come with marriage,” Camilla Taylor, a staff attorney with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
“They are willing to take on the responsibilities and obligations as well…They shouldn’t have to wait any longer,” she said.
The group will argue that the state constitution’s equal protection and due process clauses make it unlawful for the state to bar same-sex couples from marrying.
They plan to take the case to the Iowa Supreme Court if necessary.
The couples will be represented by New York-based Lambda Legal and Dennis Johnson, the former solicitor general of Iowa who is with the Dorsey & Whitney Law Firm in Des Moines. Five of the couples were appearing at news conferences in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids on Tuesday announcing the lawsuit. They are from Urbandale, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
Taylor said it is the fifth lawsuit that Lambda Legal has filed around the country. The others are in New York, New Jersey, California and Washington State. Marriage equality lawsuits are also under way in the Maryland and Connecticut courts.
Taylor said she thinks Iowans are fair-minded and she’s confident that “we will be treated with respect and that Iowans are going to be open to what we have to say.”
Larry Hoch, 63, said he and his partner, David Twombley, 64, both of Urbandale, have been committed for more than four years. He said they want to get married because, as they get older, they worry their wishes will not be respected during medical emergencies if they’re not recognized as a couple.
“If we were a heterosexual couple, we would definitely have been married a long time ago,” he said.
Ingrid Olson, 27, of Council Bluffs, said she and her partner, Reva Evans, plan to have children and feel its important to be treated like other married couples.
“We are hoping to start a family and because we are not legally married, we are not afforded the same rights, responsibilities and protections that all other families have in the state of Iowa,” she said.
The conservative Iowa Family Policy Center said the lawsuit was an attempt to circumvent the will of the people.
“Rather than trusting Iowans to decide this critical social issue, Lambda Legal hopes to force Iowans to accept same-sex marriage through the courts,” the organization’s president, Chuck Hurley said in a statement. “The people of Iowa should decide this issue, not a handful of unelected judges.”
Senate Republican leaders said they would push a bill that would allow Iowans to vote on a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.
It would have to pass two general assemblies before it could be put before voters. The Senate, now tied at 25-25, rejected the amendment banning gay marriage in 2004, when Republicans held a firm majority.
A New York appeals court recently overturned a lower court ruling allowing gay marriage.