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US: Same-sex marriage scam angers former couple who thought they were married

Joseph McCormick October 20, 2012
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A Florida man has spoken out about his anger at being issued an invalid marriage license by an Iowa courthouse, and says his case represents wider problems faced by gay couples who cannot marry in their home states.

Joab Penney, 28, of Williston, said he and his former partner, Joseph Parker, only learned that the marriage license they had been issued by Grundy County Court was invalid, when they contacted an attorney to file for divorce.

“I was pretty upset,” Mr Penney said in an interview with The Associated Press. “What she did was wrong.”

Mr Penney said that he and Mr Parker were told at the time by Deputy Clerk of Court, Brigitte Van Nice, that they could be married by the court, without having to travel there.

Iowa is one of six US states where equal marriage is currently legal.

He went on to say that he thought the problems he faced were indicative of a wider issue, which is that a lack of marriage equality in the US makes it more difficult for same-sex couples to marry because of varying state laws.

“It really illustrates a very, very big thing about gay marriage,” said Penney, “isn’t the United States supposed to be free? Why can’t same-sex people be married and be who they want to be? Why can’t all the states have it? It’s ridiculous.”

On Friday, a criminal investigation was launched into Ms Van Nice, who allegedly filed the false documents.

Ms Van Nice became ordained to perform marriages online in 2011, and started correspondence with the couple, after they had searched for how to obtain a marriage license in Iowa.

A criminal report said that, back in February, Ms Van Nice filed a marriage certificate claiming she had officiated the couple’s wedding on Valentines day, and that there were two female witnesses to the ceremony.

Brigitte Van Nice faces two counts of forgery and one count of perjury. The 42-year old was arrested at work, posted bond, and will appear in court next week.

This is believed to be the first case of its kind in the state of Iowa, said Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Larry Hedlund.

The case continues.

Related topics: Americas, brigitte van nice, equal marriage, Florida, Iowa, marriage, US

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