IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A rural Iowa court official filed false documents to say she had married a same-sex couple from Florida, even though she never met the men and they had not traveled to the state for a ceremony, investigators said Thursday.
Grundy County Deputy Clerk of Court Brigitte Van Nice was arrested at work Wednesday and charged with two counts of forgery and one count of perjury, all felonies. Van Nice, 42, posted bond and was released from jail pending a court appearance scheduled for next week.
The arrest is believed to be the first of its kind in Iowa, one of six states that allow gay marriage, said Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Larry Hedlund.
Defense Attorney Robert Thompson said Van Nice planned to plead not guilty.
"It's kind of an interesting case," Thompson said. "Certainly a case of first impression."
Investigators discovered the invalid certificate after one of the men contacted an attorney in Florida about getting a divorce, Hedlund said.
Prosecutor Jennifer Miller said charges will not be filed against the men, who believed they had been legally married.
"We determined that they basically were the ones that were duped," Miller said. "I don't think they were trying to fraudulently obtain a marriage license. They were told it was fine for them to not be in the state when they got married. I don't think they realized it was not going to be a valid marriage."
Jennifer Pizer, a same-sex marriage expert and former legal director of the Williams Institute at UCLA, called the arrest "quite unusual" and said she had not heard of anything similar elsewhere.
Van Nice became ordained to perform marriages last year through a website. The men started corresponding with her after searching the Internet for Iowa counties where they might obtain a license, Miller said.