I totally didn’t see or hear this reported in news outlets that I usually monitor, but a judge in Iowa has ruled that same-sex couples cannot be denied marriage licenses.  Fortunately, I got the news from my friend Stasa’s blog.  The story can be found at the Des Moines Register’s site.

This ruling, if it stands, would strike down the state’s defense of marriage law that defines marriage as being a union of a man with a woman.  While the initial effect is in Polk County, same-sex couples would gain the right to marry in the other 98 counties as well.  The next step is an appeal to the state Supreme Court.  They might be likely to overrule the county judge, so the freedom could be short-lived.

Even if the decision does get reversed, the fact that it happened at all is a sign of Iowa changing.  I lived in the state from 1997-2001, and nobody even talked about equal marriage – everyone was working on getting protection from job and housing discrimination in place outside a couple of larger cities in the state (only Des Moines, Iowa City, and Ames at the time).  I participated in an effort to get those protections in the City of Cedar Falls, which only garnered the support of 1 of the 7 council members.  I went to one lobbying event at the state capitol for a statewide non-discrimination bill, but that got even less far.
Now that I think about it, though, there were signs of progress while I was there.  One instance occurred when then-Governor Tom Vilsack, early in his first term, issued an executive order allowing state employees to add same-sex domestic partners to their health insurance.  The legislature reacted by proposing legislation rescinding the order.  My state senator, Republican Don Redfern, was on the committee that approved the law, and he voted in favor of it in committee.  I wrote him a letter expressing my displeasure, as did others, I’m sure, and when it came to a full Senate vote, he was one of 2 members of his party to vote against it.  The bill passed, but without enough of a margin to survive the governor’s veto.  Even if Redfern’s opinion of same-sex relationships was not changed, he at least came to know how many of his constituents felt differently.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the ideal outcome of this case.  Many, many couples in Iowa (some of whom I know) have waited long enough already.