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Last Updated: Friday, 31 August 2007, 04:32 GMT 05:32 UK
Iowa judge approves gay weddings
Gay couple holds hands in San Francisco (file)
Same-sex couples are banned from marrying in 49 of the 50 US states
A county judge has struck down a ban on same-sex marriages in the US state of Iowa as unconstitutional.

Judge Robert Hanson ruled that a law allowing marriage only between men and women violated the rights of due process and equal protection.

Polk County Attorney John Sarcone said he would appeal against the ruling.

Only the state of Massachusetts allows gay marriages. Nine others - including New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont - offer civil unions.

Civil unions do not give gay couples the same legal rights as heterosexual marriages.

'Significant step'

The Iowa decision came after six gay couples sued Polk County in 2005 after it refused to give them marriage licences.

It's an amazing day for same-sex couples and their families all across Iowa
Dennis Johnson

Judge Hanson ruled that the state's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman, violated the couples' constitutional rights.

He ordered county officials to issue licences for the six couples as he made the ruling.

One of the couples' lawyers, Dennis Johnson, said the decision was: "A significant step forward in recognising the constitutional rights of all Iowans."

"And it's an amazing day for same-sex couples and their families all across Iowa," he said.

As soon as the decision was announced, Polk County attorney John Sarcone moved to prevent any same-sex couples from marrying until the appeal was decided.


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