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3 Iowa Counties Issue Nearly Half of State's Gay Marriage Licenses

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad still wants a public referendum here in Iowa - just the third state where gays could marry. The interactive maps help show the prevalence of gay marriage in Iowa.

(Click on the above graphics for additional information)

As same-sex marriage becomes more commonplace across the country, four years after Iowa became just the third state to recognize same-sex marriage, Iowa's governor still says a public referendum is in order.

Iowa, a bellwether in politics, may also serve as an example for states like Minnesota or California of what to expect with same-sex marriage over time, both in attitudes and the requests for same-sex marriage licenses. 

Iowa legalized gay marriage by a Supreme Court ruling in 2009, but Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, said he'd still like the public to vote on gay marriage. He said this after a dual Supreme Court ruling struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which blocked same-sex couples from federal benefits, and paved the way for California to legalize gay marriage. 

Through the end of 2011, which is the most recent data from the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa has issued 4,679 same-sex licenses, which is less than 10 percent of the 62,586 marriage licenses issued in that time.

Polk County, Iowa's largest county, has issued 1,186 same-sex marriage licenses from 2009-11. That's the highest of Iowa's 99 counties. Per capita, that's about 28 licenses per 10,000 people, which ranks eight out of 99 counties. 

A few other notes that stand out from data, some expected and others may surprise you: 
  • Counties in traditionally conservative areas have among Iowa's highest same-sex marriage licenses issued per capita, including Pottawattamie and Fremont. 
  • Of course, several of these counties along with others along Iowa's borders offer out-of-state gay couples the opportunity to formalize their relationship if their state does not recognize gay marriage.
  • Marriage licences issued in Polk, Scott and Johnson Counties account for just under half of all of Iowa's same-sex marriage licenses issued.  
  • The number of marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples has declined each year since 2009. 
  • When looking at the data, * indicates the data was masked by the Iowa Department of Public Health because three or fewer licenses were issued. Because of this, 2009-11 totals for counties with masked numbers could be undercounted by 2-6 licenses.   

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