Friday, May 1, 2009

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) | Dozens of gay couples have flocked to Iowa from elsewhere in the Midwest since the door to same-sex marriage was opened there this week, and some counties have seen more interest from outside the state than within.

Some couples from neighboring states where voters have passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage plan to move to Iowa so that their unions will be recognized.

“It’s a whole different world when you cross the river,” said Troy Fienhold-Haasis of Omaha, Neb., who plans to move with his partner, Jason, across the Missouri River to Council Bluffs, Iowa, this fall.

Mr. Fienhold-Haasis said the decision to move is about more than just tax and cost-of-living issues, though those factored heavily into the couple’s decision. When he had emergency gall bladder surgery last year, Mr. Fienhold-Haasis said he worried his partner wouldn’t be able to see him in the hospital.

“In Iowa, with a marriage, those questions are taken care of,” he said.

The couple plan to apply for a marriage license in Pottawattamie County, where more Nebraskans than Iowans sought same-sex marriage applications in the first three days they were available. Twenty-three of the 42 applications Monday through Wednesday came from Nebraska, and one was mailed in from Oklahoma.

The story was similar in other counties at the state’s edges. On Monday and Tuesday, five of the 14 Dubuque County applications came from couples in nearby Wisconsin, and 12 of the 38 applications in Scott County came from across the Mississippi River in Illinois. Both applications filed Monday in Worth County were from Minnesotans, and Missouri couples filed all four applications that day in Decatur County.

Out-of-staters accounted for only five of the 95 applications received Monday through Wednesday in central Polk County, which includes Des Moines.

One Republican legislator from the Scott County community of Bettendorf said the influx from other states was nothing to celebrate.

“I feel sorry for those states where they will be going to,” state Sen. David Hartsuch said. “In those states, many of them have made their will known and … protect traditional marriage.”

Four of Iowa’s six neighbors - Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin - have approved constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.

“At this point, the Supreme Court of Iowa is imposing its will on other states,” Mr. Hartsuch said, adding that the issue will be a galvanizing point for Republicans in the elections next fall.

But Mr. Fienhold-Haasis said Nebraska and other border states are losing out. “One state is going to get tax dollars and one state is losing them,” he said.

The Iowa Supreme Court on April 3 upheld a lower court ruling that rejected a state law restricting marriage to a union between a man and woman. The decision took effect Monday, prompting a flood of applications from same-sex couples. Some couples got judges to waive the state’s three-day waiting period and were married in front of government offices.

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