The northwest Iowa judge who sparked controversy by granting a divorce to a lesbian couple has amended that decision. The Woodbury County Judge now says he did not have the authority to grant a divorce to end the women’s marriage. He now says he is “terminating” their “civil union,” which they obtained in Vermont. Iowa Family Policy Center director Chuck Hurley says it looks like a “distinction without a difference.” Hurley says when he read the first page of the ruling, he was happy the judge acknowledged he did not have jurisdiction to dissolve a lesbian marriage. But Hurley says on the second page, the judge changed the wording from marriage to civil union and terminated that. Hurley says the judge lacks the authority under current Iowa law to grant either a divorce or a termination of a civil union. Hurley says if the judge and the couple can’t “just create their own little kingdom in Sioux City and do whatever they want.” Hurley says his group will proceed with its own legal effort to undo the lesbian divorce. Written legal arguments on the case are to be presented to the Iowa Supreme Court on January 12th. Hurley says a lot is at stake because a judge, in Hurley’s opinion, is trying to ignore the state legislature’s edict that marriage in Iowa means a union of a man and a woman. Judge Jeffrey Neary has said he didn’t check to see the names of the two parties seeking a divorce in his court since there was no legal tiff between the two of them and his original ruling was merely putting the court’s stamp of approval on the plan which divided the couple’s property.
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