Two ISU students took a bold step into legally uncharted waters Friday when they had their same-sex union recognized under Iowa marriage law, taking advantage of a very small window of opportunity that has since closed.
The couple, Sean Fritz, senior in computer science, and Timothy McQuillan, junior in linguistics, were married at 10:32 a.m. Friday by the Rev. Mark Stringer of the First Unitarian Church of Des Moines, on the reverend's front lawn.
"We're both very happy and excited to be married. It has been an overwhelming day. It's good to say that we're married," Fritz said. "Both of our parents are enthusiastic about the marriage."
On Thursday, Polk County Judge Robert Hanson decreed that the state ban on gay marriage, under the 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, was unconstitutional due to the violation of due process and equal protection rights after six gay couples had sued the state.
Hanson then ordered a stay on the issue Friday, effectively stopping the ruling until the appeals process was complete.
Julie Haggerty, Polk County recorder, said the office is now under direction from the county attorney not to issue any more same-sex marriage licenses.
Fritz and McQuillan first met over Facebook, and the relationship developed over the course of the following year and two months, Fritz said.
"We arranged to have a coffee date and it went from there," Fritz said.
Fritz said they had been engaged for six months and had been weighing other marriage options.
To get married, the couple had to first obtain signatures on four different forms and get it to the Polk County recorder's office to be legalized. The usual three-day waiting period was waived in this case. At 11:30 a.m. Friday, Hanson ordered a stay on the ruling, which stops any more marriages from being legalized.
Trish Umthun, Polk County deputy recorder, said the three-day waiting period is only for contractual purposes.
"The three-day period is a contract - you have three days to back out of it," Umthun said.
The same-sex marriage issue is a hot debate, with 45 out of 50 states adopting the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Fritz said the move to get married is not based along any political lines.
"Neither of us are activists, we're just married. We're both just happy to be married and we're looking forward to our honeymoon," Fritz said.
Don McDowell, consultant with ISU College Republicans and senior in political science, said he was disappointed by the ruling and that it was forcibly trying to "change the social culture of the state."
"I think that it's obviously disappointing, and it's a prime example of judicial activism," McDowell said. "I think what happened today is very undemocratic."
McDowell said the state should have a vote or a referendum on whether to legalize same-sex unions.
"The voters [need to decide] if they want Iowa to become the Massachusetts of the Midwest," McDowell said.
On the other side of the issue, Stringer has past experience in performing same-sex marriages. Stringer said that although Friday's union was not conducted under normal circumstances, he was happy to do it.
Stringer was also very encouraged by the judge's ruling.
"I've lived in New York City and Chicago, and I'm really proud to say that the rest of the country needs to catch up to Des Moines," Stringer said.
Stringer reiterated that although he has a vested interest in the church, he feels that same sex marriages are a civil issue, not a religious one.
"As a citizen, I affirm religious organizations that choose to deny same-sex marriages. That's OK. But in this country, we have the freedom from religion and of religion. It's a civil rights issue," Stringer said. "Religion should never trump civil rights."
Faces in the Crowd: What is your reaction to the recent lifting of the ban on same-sex marriage?
D'Juan Combs, sophomore: "They are legal citizens, and you can't deny their rights just because of their sexual orientation."
Murail Kuchibhotia, graduate student: "I support it. If two people are in love then it shouldn't matter what sex they are."
Maggie Luttrell, junior: "I'm in support of it. I think that it furthers the progressiveness of Iowa."
Matthew Hendrickson, senior: "I'm against gay marriage. I don't believe its right by the Bible's standards. And it's pretty much against the country, besides Maryland."
Michael McBride, freshman: "I guess I don't think you should deny people's rights because of their sexual preference. I think its fair to let them live the life that they want to live, because we don't discriminate on the basis of race then why should we discriminate based on sexual preference?"
Keihly Moore, senior: "I thought it was a great thing that they lifted the ban and it was a bad thing that it was stopped. The reaction from the people who responded to the lift was great and it showed what people want."