How "Prop 8" ruling may impact same-sex marriage in Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

How "Prop 8" ruling may impact same-sex marriage in Iowa

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a ban on same-sex marriage in California is unconstitutional. The three-judge panel struck down "Proposition 8," a constitutional amendment voted into law in 2008.

Some are calling the decision historic, others say it's disturbing. Either way, the ruling Tuesday has many people, including Austin Fairlie of Waterloo, wondering how, or if, it could impact same-sex marriage in Iowa.

"We grew up thinking we couldn't marry the person you love. It's a little surreal," Fairlie said.

He and his partner Asa Nielson have been together for five years, and engaged nearly as long. They could legally get married in Iowa, but the pair wants to wait for same-sex marriage to be federally recognized.

"That's when our relationship would be the same as his brother and his wife or my sister and her husband," Fairlie said.

Nielson and Fairlie have come close to tying the knot a few times.

"It's always [depended on] what's happening with the system in Iowa with regards to marriage equality in Iowa. When it gets a little iffy, that's when we are thinking we may go get married," Fairlie said.

They said the decision from California seems to add a little more security to their relationship. Constitution law expert Karen Thalacker said the ruling was too narrow to have a major impact on the national level.

"The ninth circuit could have answered the very broad question of 'Is gay marriage a constitutional right?' That's what the Iowa Supreme Court did. But instead, the ninth circuit issued a much more narrow ruling that focuses on California and focused on Proposition 8," Thalacker said.

Iowa's 2009 ruling is still controversial, and while it appears the topic won't come up for discussion this year, many Iowa lawmakers still want to see voters decide whether to legalize same-sex marriage.

"I think people still want to weigh in on it here in Iowa, and I hope it wouldn't discourage either side from wanting to have their say," Cedar Falls Republican Rep. Walt Rogers said.

Thalacker said if the issue does end up on a ballot, the California decision could be a game-changer.

"Same sex marriage advocates would use this decision as sort of a playbook for how they would take this to federal court and try to prevent it from either going to a vote, or try to overturn a vote to ban same-sex marriage," she said.

Chuck Hurley, president of The Family Leader, a group fighting for traditional marriage, said it's disturbing to think two judges could overturn a decision made by millions of voters in California.

Thalacker said that's exactly what courts are meant to do: protect the rights of a few from the majority. She said it's similar to another case that was controversial in its time, Brown vs. Board of Education.

Nielson and Fairlie are happy to see the issue at the forefront of the national discussion, but they'd like lawmakers to keep one thing in mind.

"It's not just about politics. It's about our rights to be happy and have a life together until death do us part, as you'd say," Nielson said.

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