DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa's Supreme Court legalized gay marriage Friday in a unanimous and emphatic decision that makes Iowa the third state — and first in the nation's heartland — to allow same-sex couples to wed.
Iowa joins only Massachusetts and Connecticut in permitting same-sex marriage. For six months last year, California's high court allowed gay marriage before voters banned it in November.
The Iowa justices upheld a lower-court ruling that rejected a state law restricting marriage to a union between a man and woman.
The county attorney who defended the law said he would not seek a rehearing. The only recourse for opponents appeared to be a constitutional amendment, which could take years to ratify.
"We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective," the Supreme Court wrote.
Iowa lawmakers have "excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification."
To issue any other decision, the justices said, "would be an abdication of our constitutional duty."
The Iowa attorney general's office said gay and lesbian couples can seek marriage licenses starting April 24, once the ruling is considered final.
Des Moines attorney Dennis Johnson, who represented gay and lesbian couples, said "this is a great day for civil rights in Iowa."
At a news conference announcing the decision, he thanked the plaintiffs and said, "Go get married, live happily ever after, live the American dream." [...]