The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

December 23, 2009

Associated Press announces Iowa's top stories for 2009

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gay marriage was an issue for the coasts until last April, when a unanimous state Supreme Court ruled a ban on same-sex unions violated the Iowa Constitution.

The ruling prompted hundreds of gay people to get married at courthouses and churches across Iowa, and it led some to argue the country had entered a new era now that same-sex unions were legal in the Heartland.

The court decision and Iowa’s status as the only Midwestern state with gay marriage made it the top story of 2009, as voted by newspaper and broadcast members of The Associated Press.

There was plenty competition for that ranking in a year awash in economic problems and heartbreaking tragedies as well as football glory and an achingly slow but bountiful harvest.

But it was gay marriage that captured the most attention.

Supporters reveled in the strongly worded decision that a state law limiting marriage to a man and a woman violates the rights of equal protection in the Iowa Constitution. Opponents called for legislators to begin the arduous process of changing the state constitution, a move Democratic legislative leaders have opposed, and some promised a political backlash against politicians who support the right to gay marriage.

Two related stories were tied for second place — Iowa’s struggling economy and the state’s budget problems.

Unemployment in Iowa hasn’t topped 7 percent, putting it far below national figures, but the rate remains the highest seen in the state in decades. Companies in the state have struggled, with some closing plants and many more laying off workers or not filling vacant positions.

For the state, the result has been plunging tax revenue at a time when requests for state services have climbed.

Federal stimulus money helped prevent massive layoffs of teachers and other government workers, but those dollars will run out and a budget shortfall of up to $1 billion is expected in the upcoming fiscal year.

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