A national group today filed a lawsuit in Iowa, demanding that six gay couples be allowed to marry here. Camilla Taylor, the lead attorney on the case, spoke to reporters during a news conference at a downtown Des Moines hotel. Taylor says the lawsuit is about “love, committment, family and what is fair.” Taylor says the gay couples “need the vital protections” that are given to couples who are legally married in Iowa.
Taylor says if the state were to recognize gay marriages, the couples would have the ability to make medical decisions for a spouse as well as receive employment benefits like health care or bereavement leave when there’s a death in the family. That’s one of the reasons 35-year-old Jason Morgan of Sioux City is one of the parties involved in the lawsuit. Morgan says the bank where he works recently refused to give him bereavement leave to attend the funeral of his gay partner’s mother. Morgan says it’s times like that when he realizes that being legally married really would make a difference. “On an everyday basis it’s awkward and inadequate to describe Chuck as just a friend or a roommate when he is more than that,” Morgan says. “Even partner doesn’t really give the same weight as being able to say ‘He’s my spouse.'”
Sixty-four-year David Twombley of Urbandale and 63-year-old Larry Hoch of Urbandale have been living together for four years and they’re also part of the lawsuit seeking legal marriage for gays and lesbians in Iowa. “We’ve been asked many times ‘Why do you want to get married?’ and it’s very simple: we want to get married because we love each other,” Hoch says. “If we were a heterosexual couple, we would definitely have been married a long time ago.” The two men did go to Vermont and entered into one of the “civil unions” that’s allowed in that state. Twombly says they consider themselves life partners. “Marriage is a very important part of our values,” Twombley says. “Both of our parents had very strong and loving and long marriages and we want that for ourselves.”
Ingrid Olson and Reva Evans of Council Bluffs have lived together for nearly eight years, and they’re part of the lawsuit, too. “Reva and I are hoping to start a family and because we are not legally married, we are not afforded the same rights, responsibilities, protections that all other families have in the state of Iowa,” Olson says.
Taylor, the lead attorney on the case, says the case is about fairness and does not ask anyone to change their religious beliefs if they believe gay marriage is wrong. “We’re not asking any church to marry anyone if the church doesn’t want to,” she says. “Government can’t ask churches to do anything that churches don’t want to do.” Iowa currently has a state law which declares that the only legally-recognized marriages in Iowa are those between a man and a woman. Lambda Legal, the group financing the legal work on this case, have similar lawsuits pending in New York, New Jersey, California and Washington State.