For the third time, the Rev. Paul Johnson and David Llewelyn exchanged vows Sunday afternoon, but this was the first time the couple’s marriage was recognized by law.
In front of about 200 people at the United Church of Christ, 217 Sixth St., where Johnson is the minister. Johnson and Llewelyn married nearly two months after the Iowa Supreme Court handed down its ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.
The two have been together for nearly 18 years, and even received a marriage license in 2007, after a Polk County judge ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. However, a stay was issued by the judge, Robert Hanson, before the couple could get the license finalized. Even so, the two held a ceremony at their former church in Urbandale.
Both have been married to women before, and Johnson said the two met in November of 1991. Just nine weeks later, they held their own private ceremony, with just the two of them, on Jan. 19, 1992.
Johnson and Llewelyn met shortly after Johnson moved to Mason City. Johnson bought a franchise called Kitchen Solvers and he spent time remodeling kitchens. Johnson had been a Lutheran minister in his home state before being turned in to his bishop and forced to resign. Since he was no longer closeted and was open about his sexuality, Johnson wanted to meet other homosexual people in the state. “I was eager to make contact with other gay people in Iowa,” he said.
Through Accessline, a state-wide LGBT newspaper, Johnson found some social functions. He went to one in Des Moines, where he met David.
“Things went rather quickly after that,” Johnson said.
In three weeks, the two were spending weekends, together and on Jan. 19, they had their own ceremony in Johnson’s house in Mason City, complete with hymns and scripture passages.
“I don’t recommend couples move ahead that quickly. It was rather spontaneuous, not thought about too much,” he said with a laugh.
Both said they have received a lot of support since the ruling came down.
“We’ve been getting asked a question, that seems strange just because it was so off-the-radar before, which is we run into folks we know and they ask ‘are you married yet?’” Johnson said.
The two are also eager to be able to fill out different forms indicating that they’re married.
Johnson, who said he couldn’t sleep the night before the ruling was handed down, said he did not expect Iowa to would be the third state to legalized same sex marriage. He said after the lawsuit was originally filed challenging the ban on gay marriage in the state, he thought back to why the gay community didn’t get more upset about the law when it was signed.
“Certainly, the answer for me is that at the time it didn’t seem like it mattered much because it was so unthinkable that Iowa could ever approve gay marriage,” Johnson said.
Llewelyn was born and raised in southern Iowa, and save three years after graduating from dental school, has lived in the state his entire life. He said when he first heard the news about the ruling, he wasn’t really excited because he was in disbelief. Later, after some reflection, however, Llewelyn said he was not surprised by the decision because of the Iowa court decisions in the past concerning civil rights. He also was not surprised that Iowa was the third state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Llewelyn said when he talks to friends about what Iowa is doing in regards to gay rights, including things like breakfast clubs and the Matthew Sheppard scholarship for which Llewelyn serves on the selection committee for, he feels Iowa is a leader.
“I think Iowa has been… very quietly in the forefront of gay activism,” he said.