Iowa Gay Marriage Ruling Stirs 2008 Race

The Associated Press
Friday, August 31, 2007; 8:21 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa -- An Iowa county judge's ruling knocking down the state's same-sex marriage ban stirred up the presidential race Friday as Republicans jostled to stake out a position with the state's conservative voters in mind.

Mitt Romney was the first to seize on the ruling, promptly aligning himself with Iowa political leaders in denouncing the decision.

The former Massachusetts governor's swift criticism served to bolster the conservative image his campaign has been working hard to promote to Iowa's Republican voters. Romney stressed his support for a federal amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, a stand that distinguishes him from his top rivals, who have said they prefer to leave such decisions to the states.

"The ruling in Iowa ... is another example of an activist court and unelected judges trying to redefine marriage and disregard the will of the people as expressed through Iowa's Defense of Marriage Act," Romney said in a statement shortly after the ruling was made. "This once again highlights the need for a Federal Marriage Amendment to protect the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman."

On Friday, Polk County Judge Robert Hanson, who ruled Thursday that the state's decade-old ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, issued a stay on his own ruling. The stay closed the window for any gay couples seeking to marry in Polk County.

But the decision inflamed an issue that is important to conservative Republicans in this early voting state.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was the first Democrat to offer a reaction. Taping an appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" Friday, Clinton said she favors civil unions "with full equality of benefits." But she said the question of same-sex marriage should be left up to the states.

"The states have always determined age of marriage, other conditions and over time we've gotten rid a lot of discrimination that used to exist in marriage laws," she said. "That's now happening. People are making decisions. Civil unions, marriage. They're deciding in the states and I think that's the appropriate place for that to be."

A spokesman for Democrat Barack Obama said the senator "believes these matters should be left to the states, which is why he opposes the Defense of Marriage Act."

While most Democratic candidates have voiced support for same-sex civil unions, they have declined to back gay marriage, a stance that has created some tension with their gay supporters.

For Republicans, the task was not to offend conservatives.

Republican White House hopeful John McCain called the ruling "a loss for the traditional family."

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