“[The justices] ruled unanimously, which is a strong message to show that in Iowa they believe in equal rights for everyone,” the Denver Democrat and only openly gay member of the state Legislature told The Colorado Independent in an interview. Cautioning that he hadn’t yet had a chance to read the ruling, Ferrandino said: “It’s definitely a good step forward for equal rights across this nation.”
Iowa on Friday became the fourth state to approve same-sex marriage, after Massachusetts, Connecticut and California. Last fall, voters reversed a California Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage by approving Proposition 8.
“I think it shows that it’s not just on the coasts — it’s all across the nation. In the Midwest, in the heartland and in the inter-mountain West, there’s a possibility of equal rights for all citizens,” Ferrandino said.
Along with state Sen. Jennifer Veiga, another Denver Democrat, Ferrandino has successfully carried two bills this session that expand legal rights for gay couples. A bill to extend health benefits to same-sex partners of state employees and another to allow unmarried adults to name each other beneficiaries are both awaiting Gov. Bill Ritter’s signature.
Iowa doesn’t have a residency requirement for marriage — and the Hawkeye State’s only openly gay legislator is already inviting couples to “‘think about coming to Iowa to get married.” Gay marriages in Iowa could begin as soon as the end of the month, court watchers have said.
Ferrandino cautioned that the legal climate in Iowa is different from Colorado’s. “I don’t see [the Iowa decision] having an impact on Colorado law at the current time because of the constitutional amendment we have,” he said.
In 2006, Colorado voters passed Amendment 43, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and that same year they also shot down a civil union measure. The Iowa high court ruled a state law forbidding same-sex marriage ran afoul of the state constitution’s equal protection clause. The Iowa constitution doesn’t have a definition-of-marriage amendment and Democratic legislators said Friday they would block any attempts to add one.
At least one measure to reverse Colorado’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage could be headed for the ballot next year. A Lakewood man has met with legislative staff and is drafting a proposal to overturn Amendment 43, which would have to be approved by state voters.
Read all the breaking news coverage on the same-sex marriage decision by the Iowa Supreme Court at The Colorado Independent’s sibling news site, The Iowa Independent.