There’s no loophole for gay couples in Iowa’s tradition recognizing common-law marriage. Timm Reid is attorney for the Iowa Liberty and Justice Center, which has challenged the granting of a dissolution to two women on the grounds that it would mean recognizing they were married — and the state forbids gay marriage. Reid says straight couples have forged nontraditional bonds of their own for a long time. Iowa is one of a few states that recognizes common-law marriages, the lawyer says. The phrase “common law” means they’re not set in statute and not on the books, so court rulings may vary in such cases. He says there are a lot of people who live together and perhaps even have children, in relationships that are not considered marriage but “might look like a marriage.” That can mean the lack of a legal contract will leave one partner without a claim to inheritance, pension, child custody or power of attorney. And the lawyer says there’s no way gay couples can use the common-law marriage loophole to forge a union. He says while there’s been the potential for common-law marriage in Iowa “for a long, long time” but one rule has always been that they must have “held themselves out as man and wife,” so that would mean the union of only a man and a woman.
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