Iowa Gay Marriage Ruling Stirs '08 Race

For a few hours today, same-sex couples were given marriage licenses in one Iowa county.

This surprising turn of events took place after a Polk County judge ruled Thursday that the Hawkeye State improperly prohibits same-sex couples from marrying.

It's unknown exactly how many gay couples received marriage licenses.

But according to the Des Moines Register, 21 marriage licenses were given out this morning — most of them, apparently, to gay couples.

The rush for licenses came to an end at 12:30 a.m. EDT when Polk County Judge Robert Hanson agreed to suspend his Thursday ruling pending an appeal by the Polk County Attorney's Office to the Iowa Supreme Court.

After the ruling was put on hold, the county recorder stopped issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

The same-sex couples who received licenses this morning will now receive a letter explaining why their license, which would have become valid next week under a mandatory three-business-day waiting period, will now not be accepted, according to a register report.

This story has special political implications because it took place in Iowa — the state that kicks off the presidential nominating process.

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate who tops the polls in Iowa, has been the most aggressive top-tier candidate. He has used it as an opportunity to renew his call for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Romney's top Republican rivals — former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and Arizona Sen. John McCain — have opposed such a measure in the past.

Romney is no stranger to the fight against same-sex marriage. He was governor of Massachusetts when same-sex marriage was imposed in that state by judicial decision.

If Hanson's lower-court ruling is upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court, Iowa would join Massachusetts as the only two states allowing same-sex marriages.

On the Democratic side, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton weighed in during a taping of the "Ellen DeGeneres Show."

Clinton said she favors civil unions "with full equality of benefits." She added, however, that the question of same-sex marriage should be left up to the states, according to The Associated Press.

"The states have always determined age of marriage, other conditions and over time we've gotten rid a lot of discrimination that used to exist in marriage laws," she said.

"That's now happening. People are making decisions. Civil unions, marriage. They're deciding in the states and I think that's the appropriate place for that to be."