Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Just Married: the journey to the same-sex altar

Posted By on Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 9:44 AM

click to enlarge That's Doug on the right, his husband Doc on the left
  • That's Doug on the right, his husband Doc on the left

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 started the same as any other muggy summer day in central Indiana. My "husband" and I woke up, fed the dogs, drank some coffee, and kissed each other goodbye as we each headed off to work. We, along with many Hoosiers, had been awaiting a ruling on the status of marriage equality in our state. The moment came, as such moments often do, as a complete surprise. I was at work hunched over spreadsheets, actively listening to a conference call when my phone buzzed: a news notification.

BREAKING: Federal court rules Indiana's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

I was astonished. Did I read it right? Could it be true? Could all the hard work and persistence of so many dedicated to marriage equality in our state have finally paid off? With shaking hands and my heart in my throat, I texted the news to my "husband." He responded within moments, but such monumental news couldn't be conveyed via text message alone.

On our lunch breaks, we had time for a quick phone call. Our excitement was tempered by suspicion and fear that the ruling would be stayed immediately. But for the moment, we had been granted the right for which we'd been fighting for so long, and our enthusiasm overtook us. The ruling had provided an answer, but also many more questions. Should we go now? Should we wait? If we get our license today, should we get married today? What about our friends and family? Should we ask them to meet us? Will they be upset if we go without them?

After a workday full of distraction and daydreaming for both of us, we decided to meet at home to discuss our plan face to face. On the way, we each called our parents, and received their support to go, and go NOW. I arrived home, and found my "husband" in the kitchen. We hugged fiercely, tears in our eyes. Our day had come! We decided wordlessly. We were getting married. Tonight!

click to enlarge image_2_.jpeg

Having only told our parents, we drove to the City-County building in rush hour traffic, and arrived shortly before 5:30. Once inside, we strode down the hall to County Clerk Beth White's office. We were astonished to see a line of hundreds of people, all gathered for the same purpose: to profess their love and have it legally recognized by our state.

The line moved slowly, but no one seemed to mind. We all stood with expectant smiles on our faces. Some fidgeted nervously, while others were soothed by their soon-to-be spouses with soft words and warm embraces. Many couples were accompanied by family, friends, children and co-workers — the outpouring of support was overwhelming. Beth White was seen frequently moving up and down the line, offering congratulatory handshakes and assuring everyone in line that our patience would be rewarded. "We'll stay here tonight for as long as it takes," she said. As each newly married couple emerged from the clerk's office, cheers rose up from those of us still in line. We were all strangers, but it made no matter. We had won. LOVE had won.

After three hours of waiting in that stuffy hallway, we finally made it to the threshold of the clerk's office. Not only was the air conditioning inside refreshing, but so was the scene before us: couples waving their newly granted marriage licenses, joyful tears, smiles, laughter.

This is what many of our state's elected officials were fighting so hard to prevent?

We reached the Marriage Licenses desk and completed our necessary forms. Within moments, there it was: our official, legal marriage license. All that was left was to say the words. We were then greeted warmly by Beth White herself. She asked us how long we'd been together (11 years), whether or not we had rings to exchange (we did), and if we wanted a prayer included in our ceremony (I deferred to my future husband on this point — and he did).

click to enlarge image_1_.jpeg

We were ushered into a separate room, apart from the frenzied celebrations happening in the office. It was hushed, with only occasional muffled cheers seeping through the walls. Ms. White asked us to face each other, join hands, and began to speak.

I admit that the specifics of the ceremony are a bit fuzzy for me. What I remember most is the enormous grin on my new husband's face (no more quotation marks from NOW ON), his reassuring grip on my hands, and Ms. White's gentle and loving tone. We exchanged vows, rings and kisses — and it was done.

Again I had to think: this is what a highly vocal minority in our state is fighting so hard against? A promise we make to each other in front of a legal official?

After having our license signed, we found ourselves back in the office swarming with other couples as eager and deserving as we were. We paid our necessary fees and got our official documents. And then it was over. We were married. Husbands for life.

As we left the City-County Building, hand-in-hand, we were met with more cheering and congratulatory sentiments. We experienced none of the derisive attitudes one might expect in our red state. Family, friends and strangers alike heaped praise and well wishes upon us.

Our love was finally recognized and celebrated. Love always wins.

Yes, the state's Attorney General requested and was granted a stay that once again prevents gay and lesbian Hoosiers from obtaining their marriage licenses. So the struggle continues, as we knew it would. For the lucky few that were able to secure the right to marry the person they love it was a small and long awaited victory. But for those who still hope one day they will be able to share the joy that we feel, it bears repeating: Love always wins. n

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Doug Whitinger

Doug Whitinger is a native Hoosier and an advocate for LGBT rights.

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