Lambda Weddings, a newly formed wedding and event planning group based in Des Moines, Iowa, is inviting gay couples from all other states where gay marriage is not yet legal to come to Iowa and legally tie the knot. Iowa does not have residency laws that would prevent out-of state couples from marrying there. Anyone from any other state can get legally married in Iowa after obtaining a marriage license from the County Recorder's office.
Lambda Weddings is not a charity or a non-profit. It is a for-profit business that believes in the rights of gay and lesbian couples to marry and live full lives in American society. To further this cause, Lambda Weddings is pledging 10% of its profits to Lambda Legal to support the fight for marriage equality in other states.
“We believe that only by actively embracing the rights given to us by Iowa's Supreme Court can we further the cause of gay marriage in states where it is still not recognized,” said Lambda spokesperson, Kirk Smith. “We are asking all gay couples who are in committed relationships and who would marry if they could, to come to Iowa and get legally married.”
To facilitate this, Lambda Weddings (lambdaweddings.com) is offering wedding packages for out-of-state couples ranging upwards from $549. The base price includes a licensed minister, unity candle ceremony in a charming country setting, a personal wedding planner, chilled champagne for toasting, a complimentary cake, ceremonial decor, digital photos and processing of the marriage license. Additional services such as airport pick-up, elaborate photo shoots, a sit-down reception or theme weddings can all be purchased for additional fees.
“This is a serious issue but it is also a festive occasion. A marriage is a joyous occasion and we can make that special day something beautiful that you will cherish for the rest of your lives,” added Smith.
Iowa is also a great place to honeymoon in the summer. There are many quaint bed-and-breakfasts scattered across the state in very beautiful scenic locations. The Bridges of Madison County is only 15 minutes from Des Moines and its lush countryside and rustic charm is among the best in the Midwest.
The question of whether their home states will recognize the marriage of a gay couple is an open one. In many instances the home states may not grant them the same rights that heterosexual married couples have with respect to adoption, inheritance or benefits. According to Lambda, the only way to find out is to get married in Iowa and demand the rights after returning home- even if it means a court battle. “States have an obligation to recognize the laws of other states in the Union, and this is an issue where we should push them to recognize Iowa's law,” added Smith.
Central Iowa family law attorney, Joseph W. Fernandez, echoes that sentiment. "This is a very significant time for gay couples seeking a marriage license," he said. "There are very basic, and universal, Constitutional issues at play, perhaps the most significant of which is the issue of comity: the universal constitutional maxim that says, in effect, that one state is required to recognize, and accept, the judicial acts of another state."
Mr. Fernandez, who began his career as a law clerk to a Federal District Judge in Iowa, and who is a board member of Iowa Friends for Civil Rights, Inc., maintains that, while the recognition of a state-sanctioned gay marriage in states that have yet to approve gay marriage may be an open question, that is only because the matter has yet to be challenged. He maintains they ultimately will be recognized. Mr. Fernandez stresses that Iowa trial courts have been extremely progressive in this regard. "Long before the constitutionality of a legislative attempt to bar gay marriage was considered by the Iowa Supreme Court, an Iowa state court judge in Woodbury County permitted the dissolution of a lesbian marriage that had taken place previously in Vermont. It did so based on the simple premise that no state is allowed to ignore a marriage that occurred, legally, elsewhere. And that, I believe, is how it is going to happen throughout the country: even a state, like Iowa at that time, that has anti-gay marriage laws on its books, must recognize, and deal accordingly, with the fact of a marriage that occurred in, and was legally sanctioned by, another state."
Key to all of this, he says, is the fact that Iowa has no residency requirement when it comes to marriage. "Barring any other infirmity, like if you are trying to marry an immediate relative, or someone who is already married, or someone who is under age and not emancipated, just as soon as you obtain your marriage certificate from the county recorder, you can go ahead and have your civil ceremony," he said.
On April 3rd, 2009, Iowa led the way for the country, and in particular the West and the Midwest. Its ruling, that a state cannot add to its marriage mandates a requirement that marriage is only between a man and a woman, demonstrated that fairness is a way under the American constitutional system. The Iowa Supreme Court gave a clear signal that the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of marriage is a violation of their constitutional rights.
And Lambda Weddings (LambdaWeddings.com) wants to assist in making marriages not only accessible, but easy and enjoyable, in Iowa.
“Lambda Weddings is proud of the Iowa Supreme Court and the Constitution it defends," says Smith. "We would like to welcome all of couple who are seriously considering marriage to publicly declare your love by exchanging vows here in the free state of Iowa.”