With Gay Marriage Now Legal, NKY Clerks, Churches, and Officiants Prepare
Only a few marriage licenses were handed out to same-sex couples in Northern Kentucky on Friday, the first day that they were permitted, but local county clerks offices, churches, and officiants are preparing for more.
"We're in the process of trying to get the forms ready to be used. I'm assuming we'll probably be issuing a couple licenses by the end of business today," said Campbell County Clerk Jim Luersen. In fact, by 3 p.m., one gay couple had received a license. Luersen said it was a couple from Newport that had waited to be married for sixteen years.
The United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that same-sex marriages are to be legally performed and recognized in all states. Kentucky was one of thirteen in the country that still banned the practice.
Kenton County Clerk Gabrielle Summe said that two couples had received licenses at the Covington office on Friday. Governor Steve Beshear, who hired a private law firm to fight in favor of the state's ban on same-sex marriage when Attorney General Jack Conway refused to, said Friday that the state would recognize gay marriages immediately and he directed county clerks to issue licenses. Revised paperwork that remove the terms bride and groom and replace them with party 1 and party 2 is on the way.
Summe said instead of waiting for the new forms, she manually altered some of the existing ones. "Because I have two offices (in Covington and Independence), I buy in bulk when it comes to marriage licenses," she said.
As for the employees in the clerk's office, Summe said that they had a sensitivity training session recently so that they were all prepared for any questions and how to handle various situations, depending on the outcome of the Supreme Court's decision/ "I don't think anyone in my office really needed sensitivity training, it was just to answer questions until we had a really good legal directive from the governor," Summe said. "We don't want to turn anyone away. We just wanted to know how to proceed.
For Luersen, it's business as usual, too. "Other than the forms changing, everything is basically the same," he said.
Boone County is a different story as Clerk Kenny Brown reportedly decided not to issue any marriage licenses to anyone on Friday. A phone call to Brown was not returned Friday. He had previously published an opinion piece in the Cincinnati Enquirer voicing his opposition to same-sex marriage and stating that he would explore his legal options if the nation's highest court determined it to be a constitutional right.
Steve Hoffman, a Kenton County Magistrate known locally as the Marryin' Man, is ready to welcome gay couples into his Covington office.
"First off, equal rights, it doesn't matter who you are, what you are, where you are. It doesn't matter what your color is," Hoffman said. "It's all about having equal rights and as Pope Francis has said, who am I to judge? That's one of the greatest comments I've heard yet on this."
Hoffman presided over a same-sex marriage Friday.
"The law is the law. I follow the law and if the law states I can't do them, I don't do them," Hoffman said. "If the law states I can do them, I do them. It's the law of the land now. That's what I'm doing. No ifs, ands, or buts. My personal opinion is, this is about equality and letting people be free."
Reverend Chinna Simon of Madison Avenue Christian Church in Covington will also preside over same-sex wedding ceremonies, he told The River City News.
"For Madison Avenue Christian Church, this is a place that is welcoming for everybody," Simon said. "This decision by the Supreme Court only says what has been acceptable before God, and God has found everybody to his own children. Now they are equal under the law."
MACC has been a welcoming congregation for a long time, Simon said. Two weeks ago, a baby dedication was conducted during Sunday services. The parents are a gay couple.
"Now what we have done as a celebration of marriage," Simon said, "we can also say is a celebration under the law."
Trinity Episcopal Church will also welcome same-sex weddings. Rev. Peter D'Angio spoke with The River City News from Salt Lake City where he is attending a national Episcopal meeting. "We just celebrated this morning as the national church did," D'Angio said. "We are delighted. I am delighted as the rector that the Supreme Court has ruled in this matter that is now the law of the land. For us, as Episcopalians, our church policies and faith politices align."
Trinity has hosted same-sex ceremonies but now will have legal standing afterwards. "We have been doing rites of blessings because it has not been legal in the Commonwealth of Kentucky," D'Angio said. "I'm anticipating now that hopefully we'll be able to perform same-sex marriage in the church."
Same-sex marriage is a discussion at the Salt Lake City event, the reverend said. Friday's decision has special meaning for him, too, as he has been married to his husband for two years. They have been together for twenty-four.
"That is a tremendous relief. It is a blessing because now I don't have to worry about hospitalization and having my spouse be recognized as my spouse," he said. Recently, a member of the church, also in a same-sex relationship, was not permitted to see his partner in the hospital because their relationship was not legally recognized.
More gay couples will have those protections as they line up to say their vows.
And they are lining up.
"My phone is blowing up," Hoffman said.
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher