Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Iowa Deputy Clerk Accused of Gay Marriage Scam Pleads Guilty

(Van Nice)
Last October, I wrote (here and here) about Brigitte Van Nice, the former Grundy County Deputy Clerk of Court who was arrested following allegations that she had filed a false marriage license application involving a gay male couple from Florida. The couple had reached out to Van Nice, seeking to get married. Florida doesn't do same-sex marriage licenses. Van Nice sought $150 from the couple. She then filed a document claiming that she had officiated a Valentine's Day wedding ceremony for the pair at a Waterloo truck stop and included two fake witness signatures.

Unfortunately for Van Nice, the couple decided to divorce shortly after their marriage and learned through an attorney that the marriage was invalid, largely because they'd never stepped foot in Iowa. You have to be physically present in this state during your wedding for your marriage to be valid. A complaint was filed and Van Nice was eventually charged with two counts of forgery and one count of perjury.

Which brings us to the present. KGAN reports that Brigitte Van Nice pleaded guilty to misdemeanor forgery related to this case. I'm presuming that the other charges were dropped. Following her guilty plea, Van Nice will receive a suspended sentence and probation.

I wrote the following back in October, but it's still important to remember:
For the record, you need to be in Iowa to get married in Iowa. I'm not sure that's it's possible to file marriage license documents by remote anywhere in this county. If someone tells you otherwise, they are lying.

Another thing to consider. It is very difficult to get divorced. It's even more difficult to divorce if you are a gay couple with a marriage license from Iowa (or Vermont or New York or Massachusetts, etc...) who lives in any number of marriage inequality states. Your state usually won't recognize your marriage to process the divorce papers and pretty much any of the marriage equality states will require you to be a resident of that state for a certain amount of time (usually 6-12 months) before they will process your divorce. This has been a huge headache for an Internet friend from Missouri who got married here in Iowa three years back and later decided to divorce.
Updated Later in the Day: OMG. I just read an article about this case from the Miami Herald. Let's just say that Joab Penney, one of the guys from this falsified marriage, is pissed off and wants Van Nice sent off to prison. To a point, I don't disagree with him.

Penney apparently sought not to divorce his longterm boyfriend/husband, but to void his marriage so that he could marry a woman. Now Florida won't let him marry anyone new since he has this marriage license from Iowa, but he cannnot divorce his ex-husband in Florida. Plus, Iowa isn't being helpful about whether or not his marriage actually exists or not. He's been advised to get an attorney and petition the court to get this case resolved. Check out this quote:
Penney said he has been frustrated by the lack of answers from officials in Iowa and the legal limbo he's in. "I want to get married here to a woman, and I can't," he said. "It's a major headache. I've changed my lifestyle because of all of this. It has offended me that much."
I had thought this guy had issues earlier for marrying and seeking to divorce within a very short amount of time. But those last two sentences? OMG, indeed...


Katy Anders said...

Interesting case. She committed a crime, sounds like!

This sort of thing could be the next battle in gay marriage, now that gay marriage states appear to be multiplying.

I'm in the situation you describe in your last paragraph. States have no residency requirements for marriage, but they DO for divorce, and I'm in Texas.

It seems to be a "equal access to the courts" question, because everybody else who is married can go SOMEWHERE to get divorce. Gay folks in Texas can't without several extra steps - including moving states for 6 months!

I look forward to the upcoming state-by-state skirmishes, haha...

Jon said...

I don't envy you, Katy. My friend James from Missouri, who unfortunately passed away a few months ago, really struggled to find an easy way to establish residency in Iowa while maintaining his life in Missouri. I think he ultimately planned to move to New York -- partly to get divorced -- before he unexpectedly died. Not cool...

If someone from a marriage inequality state were to ask me how to get married in Iowa, I'd advise them against it. Not unless they had plans to move one of the New England states, or Washington (state or DC), or Iowa. And why wouldn't you want to move to Iowa?? Relatively low unemployment, little traffic congestion, nice people, tons of traveling presidential politicians.