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The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously decided Friday that a law declaring marriage to be between a man and a woman is unconstitutional, making its state the first in the Midwest to approve same-sex marriage.

Iowa's court ruled that same-sex marriage would become legal on April 24, and the law would apply to any couple who wanted to travel to Iowa. The county attorney who defended the law said he would not seek a rehearing. The only alternative for opponents appears to be a constitutional amendment, which would be considered in 2011 at the earliest.

To change the Iowa Constitution requires a resolution to be adopted in the exact same form by the House and the Senate of two consecutive General Assemblies before the issue would go before voters for ratification, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

The Vermont House voted this week to allow same-sex couples to marry in the state, but the governor is expected to veto the decision next week. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California State Supreme Courts also moved to legalize same-sex marriage, but voters in California overturned California's decision in November 2008.

“California’s vote came much quicker, so I suspect they had a much easier time,” said Kim Conger, a political scientist at Iowa State University. “I think it’s going to be harder fight three years from now because there will be a lot of gay, married people in the state.”

An Iowa Poll in February 2008 showed that 62 percent of Iowans believed marriage should be only between one man and one woman. Thirty-two percent said they believed same-sex marriages should be allowed, while 6 percent were unsure, according to the Des Moines Register.

In its opinion, the court addressed religious opposition to same-sex marriage, saying ...

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