Marriage change draws out-of-staters, Missourians bus to town to get hitched

BY ANNA LOTHSON | MAY 04, 2009 7:30 AM

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Elaine Lopez and Jackie McNeil waited nearly 23 years to say “I do.”

On May 1, with 16 other gay and lesbian couples from Missouri, they got that chance in Iowa City.
“It’s just fantastic, it’s almost indescribable,” she said. “I never thought this could ever happen.”

While the marriages won’t be recognized in their home state, Lopez said, she hopes the rest of the nation follows Iowa in legalizing gay marriage.

But she’s still unsure whether to believe that would happen in her lifetime.

The journey for the group — flocking together from the St. Louis area — began at 6 a.m. as their bus departed for Iowa City. They all married by 3 p.m., later celebrating at Devotay, 117 N. Linn St.

They were back home by evening.

Dressed in an array of different fashions, ranging from casual dress to tuxedos, the 17 couples split into four groups, where different officials administered ceremonies individually, with sun shining through the stained-glass windows of the quaint Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City.

The Rev. Benjamin Maucere, who performed some of the marriages, said he and his wife spent a few days figuring out how to marry so many people at once while keeping it personable for each couple.
“It’s a liturgical and logistical challenge,” he said, and he was previously unsure he would ever be able to perform a same-sex ceremony.

“I did not expect this to happen in Iowa,” he said. “I am proud of this state.”

And while Maucere noted the marriages remain recognized in only a few states, he said he thinks the “ongoing battle” will spread across other states.

In the week since the decision came into effect, Johnson County Recorder Kim Painter said 80 same-sex couples have applied for marriage licensees.

In Iowa, the third state to legalize gay marriage, there is no residency clause to get married, but there is a one-year residency rule to get divorced — something Painter said the out-of-state visitors know.

Painter also said she had heard many attorneys are advising couples to get married in Iowa so they are already married if other states change their laws.

Keith Thompson, who married Dan Dowd after a nearly 22-year relationship, said the trip to Iowa has been an “adventure.”

“We have been welcomed with open arms and hospitality,” Thompson said, noting all the excitement was just another “piece” of the bigger picture toward achieving acceptance.

Ed Reggi — a leader of Show Me No Hate who led the group to Iowa City — said he might make Iowa his new home.

Reggi, who has been with his husband Scott Emanuel for 10 years, said it was simply a phenomenal day in a “community full of love and support for each other.”

Besides Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont allow same-sex couples to marry; the New Hampshire Legislature remains close to passing the measure into law.

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