Same-sex marriage nears 1 year

BY ARIANA WITT | MARCH 31, 2010 7:30 AM

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April 3 is likely to be an anniversary several husbands and wives in Iowa will not soon forget.

In fact, as the one-year anniversary of the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous agreement to legalize same-sex marriage approaches, locals are already celebrating the event, reflecting on how the decision has affected their lives in one year’s time.

On Tuesday, Jen BarbouRoske, an Iowa City resident and plaintiff in the historic Iowa case, spoke about her small wedding in a local park to Dawn, her partner of nearly 20 years.

“We told the kids, if you get dirty, that’s OK because it was about celebration,” BarbouRoske said.
She was among a handful of locals who spoke when One Iowa, Iowa’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy group, hosted a press conference at the Johnson County Administration Building on Tuesday. The event was a part of a weeklong celebration leading up to the anniversary.

BarbouRoske said she felt fortunate to be a part of the nearly 1,800 same-sex marriages that took place in Iowa last year. Speaking about her experiences is something she hopes others can learn from, she said.

“I’m more than happy to come and talk to people so that they realize our family is a good strong, stable family that contributes to society,” BarbouRoske said.

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One Iowa executive director Carolyn Jenison said people in Iowa City have been active in the organization’s efforts.

“There have been such great leaders, specifically in Johnson County, who have really helped to move this forward,” she said. “We want to give them the opportunity to share their words of encouragement.”

Republicans in the state Legislature attempted to overturn the Supreme Court ruling by introducing bills this session that would amend Iowa’s Constitution to define marriage as between a man and woman. Those attempts failed.

But Iowa City has likely seen other changes in the past year related to same-sex marriage, one official said.

Johnson County Supervisor Janelle Rettig said she’s seen an increase in the local economy and some of it may be related to the legalization of same-sex marriages. She said Iowa City should expect to see an increase in population.

“Older generations are moving back to Iowa because it seems to be a more forward-thinking place to live, and I believe we will see dramatic changes in the next few years,” she said.

Rettig also said out-of-state couples are contributing to the local economy by making the trip across state lines to have their marriage legally recognized.

In May 2009, a bus of 17 same-sex couples from St. Louis, traveled to Iowa City for one day to tie the knot. Rettig said groups from Missouri have made the trip at least two other times.

“My wife, Robin, and myself made the trip all the way to Toronto when she had cancer because we didn’t want our time together to end without having been officially recognized as marriage,” Rettig said. “Couples coming to Iowa are doing so because they’re in love.”

In the months following the Supreme Court decision, officials from the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau traveled to other states to promote Iowa as a same-sex marriage destination.

BarbouRoske said she hopes more locals will grow to realize the importance of Iowa’s same-sex marriage decision and will continue to speak publicly this week and in the future to aid the civil rights of gays in Iowa.

“What I hope people learn from meetings like this is that Iowa has become better over the past year,” said BarbouRoske.

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