Gay couples in Iowa welcome Supreme Court ruling
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gay married couples in Iowa celebrated a landmark Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that they said means same-sex couples finally will be able to realize benefits afforded to other married people.
Same-sex couples have been able to wed in Iowa since a 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling legalized gay marriage. But because the federal Defense of Marriage Act defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman, those couples are blocked from collecting a range of federal benefits available to married people, such as filing joint taxes, receiving breaks on estate taxes and receiving Social Securitysurvivor benefits.
Chris Patterson, who lives in West Des Moines with her married partner and two young children, said she felt relief and joy over the ruling.
“It was a long time coming and we both feel pretty amazing,” said Patterson, 41, who takes care of their kids. “I think it’s pretty amazing for my family and my kids and I think it’s a step forward. I’m at loss for words.”
Between 2009 and 2011, about 1,500 same-sex couples from Iowa were married in the state, the third to offer gay marriage. More out-of-state couples also have wed in Iowa, one of 12 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have approved same-sex unions.
Jason Dinesen, an accountant and a board member for gay rights group One Iowa, said that the lack of federal recognition for Iowa’s same-sex married couples is a headache at tax time. He said these couples must file separate federal taxes, though they can file jointly at the state level. They also miss out on some other tax breaks; for example if a gay couple gets health insurance from one partner’s employer, the coverage for the spouse may be considered taxable income.
“Life will be a lot simpler at tax time when DOMA goes away,” Dinesen said.
Donna Red Wing, president of One Iowa, agreed.
“We’re absolutely thrilled. Everything changes. Everything changes now,” said Red Wing, who is marrying her longtime partner later this year in Iowa.
Still, Rep. Dwayne Alons, R-Hull, said he would continue his efforts to end gay marriage in Iowa. During the recent legislative session, he introduced a joint resolution signed by 34 other House Republicans proposing a change in the Iowa Constitution to ban gay marriage. The measure did not survive a self-imposed Legislative deadline this year, but could be revived in the next session.
Alons said he thought the public should have the opportunity to vote on the issue, which would need to happen to make the change. But he said the Supreme Court ruling would likely make it harder to move any bill forward.
“It’s going to have even a heavier lift in the future,” Alons said.