CARROLL, Iowa — As politicians and social activists despaired or rejoiced an Iowa Supreme Court decision this morning legalizing gay marriage within weeks, the owner of Bridal Country Ltd. In Carroll had a more practical concern.
How does she handle dressing-room arrangements and deal with what may be some changes in clientele?
"We're thinking it may be totally different for us now," said Jackie Pudenz "We have had men come in and try on gowns. I've pretty much seen a lot of things. Now that it's actually law, it takes on whole different aspect."
Pudenz, who has been in the wedding attire business for three decades, said she was talking about the Supreme Court decision's potential impact with an employee this morning.
"The dressing room situation will be more interesting - seriously," Pudenz said.
Pudenz said she hasn't had a run of gay couples appear at her Carroll store, but just last week, she said, a male wanted to try on a dress.
While it is a private business, and Pudenz does hold her own political views on the issue, she's come to the conclusion that "I have to be open as a business. I can't allow my opinions into my business."
At the Carroll County Recorder's Office, which collects a $35 fee for a marriage license, there haven't been any early requests from same-sex couples this morning.
"I've been just listening to the broadcast finding out what we can and can't do," said County Recorder Marilyn Dopheide.
Dopheide, who has been county recorder since 1995, said she's never had a gay couple come in and request paperwork for a marriage.
"I have not really had the phone calls of that nature," Dopheide said.
The Daily Times Herald has never had a request for publication of a gay-wedding announcement, although some obituaries list what are clearly homosexual relationships within the surviving families of the deceased.
Like Pudenz, Dopheide has a practical immediate concern. As it stands the marriage application forms list categories for "bride" and "groom." She is wondering how that terminology may be changed with same-sex couples who may not want to break down their relationship in those traditional gender-based terms.
"That particular topic was discussed," Dopheide said. "How do we determine the particular terminology on the form?"
Dopheide has been talking with the Iowa Department of Public Health, which manages marriage licenses, and other county officials about changes that may take place as a result of the cultural sea change today.
An elected official, Dopheide, a Democrat, said her position on gay marriage is necessarily this: "My opinion is what the Supreme Court says I am required to do."
State Sen. Steve Kettering, R-Lake View, was on the phone this morning with GOP leaders planning a response to the politically explosive news.
Kettering said Republicans and their Democratic allies on this issue will seek to change the Iowa Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
"Monday morning I would expect we will go down and proceed that way," Kettering said.
That process requires a simple majority vote of both chambers in two consecutive Iowa Legislatures followed by a public referendum.
State Rep. Rod Roberts, R-Carroll, said this morning that those legal requirements may stretch out an attempt at enshrining opposite-sex marriage in Iowa until 2012, when it could be a major issue in the outcome of state races and even the presidency because of its mobilization of the GOP base in Iowa.
"There it is," Kettering said. "Without question it will mobilize the Republican base, energize the Republican base."
Roberts, a social conservative who is a potential GOP candidate for governor in 2010, expressed strong displeasure with the court's unanimous ruling today.
"I'm disappointed and I'm upset with their ruling, but I'm not surprised by it," Roberts said. "Having said that, it doesn't make it any easier to accept."
Roberts said the foundation of the nation is the family unit, which he believes best involves heterosexual married couples.
"I believe marriage is a unique relationship, a covenant, between one man and one woman," Roberts said.
Roberts says he doesn't have the answers about why people are gay, but he said: "I don't know if I agree with the statement that they are born gay."
In terms of his constituents in west-central Iowa, Roberts said 95 percent of those who have contacted him on gay marriage are opposed to it - including many Democrats and Independents.
Both Kettering and Roberts said the court's ruling comes at a time when state leaders are focused on the economy - which Roberts said is still the No. 1 political issue.
"There isn't any question that it will divert attention, no question about it," Kettering said.
This story is crossposted at the Carroll Daily Times Herald Web site.