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Gay marriage ruling has Iowans weighing their values

Calm deliberation marks the reaction, for the most part, to Friday's landmark court decision.

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In the two days since the highest court in her state ruled to allow same-sex marriages starting in late April, Sheila Engel of Davenport, Iowa, found herself rethinking an issue about which she had assumed she'd made up her mind.

"One part me says it's against my Christian beliefs. Another part of me says they should have equal rights," Ms. Engel said Sunday while paused in a grocery aisle of her local Wal-Mart. "There has to be a middle road here."

Her rumination is being shared by many Iowans who are coming to terms with a controversial issue that, until last week, was safely confined to America's distant coasts. With Friday's ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court, the state became the third behind Connecticut and Massachusetts to permit gay marriages.

Legalization, however, means something different for Iowa than for its predecessors. The ruling is destined, for one thing, to reposition the heartland state as more progressive than it's usually perceived, especially by people who have never been to Iowa and dismiss the entire region as "fly-over" territory.

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