Locals celebrate same-sex marriage strides


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Janelle Rettig hated Iowa City when the community was less accepting of her sexuality and those identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

But Rettig, the chairwoman of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, has persevered since she and her partner Robin Butler moved to the Iowa City area in 1989.

“I didn’t think I fit in at all,” she said of a time in which many people did not accept her sexuality.

But Rettig, standing proudly on stage on the Pentacrest Wednesday evening, has certainly found her niche.

“[Today] Robin will turn 50, and later this year, we will celebrate our 25th anniversary,” she said.

Rettig and other local officials stood among roughly 200 community members on the Pentacrest Wednesday to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

DOMA, which defined marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife,” has been a barrier that LGBTQ advocates have struggled with since President Bill Clinton signed it into law in 1996.

In a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Wednesday, it was overturned on the basis that it denies the “equal liberty” guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

“This is a wonderful, glorious day for the people of America, particularly the people of Iowa,” John Harper, a reverend and former UI professor, said at the rally.

Despite victories such as these, Harper reminded the LGBTQ community that its perseverance must continue.

“We can’t just sit back and say that the job is done,” he said, noting the 37 states that don’t have marriage equality currently.

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, the first member of the Iowa delegation to sign on to the Respect for Marriage Act, released a statement following the Supreme Court decision showing his support.

“Today is a great day for equality and marriage,” he said in a statement.  “The decision today reaffirms nationwide what we Iowans already know — that love knows no bounds and all couples should have the same rights as their neighbors.”

While more progressive individuals such as Loebsack celebrate the decision, others — including Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker  — feel it was a step in the wrong direction.

“I firmly agree with traditional marriage and am quite comfortable defending traditional marriage regardless of this court ruling,” Spiker said in a release. “Though some of my conservative colleagues have expressed concern with the Supreme Court’s ruling today, I believe there are some positives we can take from it, including the decision that individual states should be able to play a larger role in how they define marriage.”

However, many Iowa City community members carry a different tune.

Johnson County Recorder Kim Painter said it is on days like these that the United States and its citizens expose all that they are capable of.

“America can be a rough place, but there is no place like it,” she said. “If you persevere, it will not deny you.”

Painter also noted the importance of returning the favor to those who have helped the LGBTQ community in Iowa.

“We got here with the help of others who struggle still for the recognition of equality under the law,” Painter said. “We will do whatever we can to help these people.”

But after victories such as these, LGBTQ advocates took a moment to celebrate their progress.

Rep. Vicki Lensing, D-Iowa City, summed up the day’s triumphs:

“Ding dong, DOMA is dead, and I think that rainbow is a little brighter today,” she said.

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