Love is legal: In US, same-sex couples marry after SC 'blessing'

  • AP, Louisville, Kentucky
  • Updated: Jun 27, 2015 17:17 IST

Benjamin Moore and Tadd Roberts wore matching tuxedos to the county clerk's office in Louisville to get married Friday, and the mayor greeted them with a bottle of champagne.

They were among a rush of gay couples across the US in South and Midwest who celebrated the Supreme Court's ruling legalising same-sex marriage with spontaneous weddings. They were young and old, they wore gowns and suits or T-shirts and jeans, they kissed and waved flags that read "love wins."

"It's just been incredible and historic and amazing to live this moment," Moore said. The mayor took commemorative photos of him and Roberts getting their license.

Read: US legalises same-sex marriage, India has a long way to go

Benjamin Moore, left, and Tadd Roberts kiss after their marriage ceremony at the Jefferson County Clerks Office Friday, June 26, 2015, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo)

But the reaction wasn't as welcoming in some of the 14 states that had been the last holdouts against same-sex marriage, creating confusion as some officials embraced the ruling and others rebuffed it.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has long fought against same-sex marriage, said states can fight the ruling, as they have decisions allowing slavery or abortion, and predicted that it would spark a national backlash from Christian conservatives.

"They've just disregarded everything that precedent holds, and they've destroyed the foundation of our country which is family," Moore said.

Stacy Wood, (L) and her wife Michele Barr leave San Francisco City Hall after getting married in San Francisco, California June 26, 2015. Barr and Wood have been together for almost 29 years. (Reuters)

In rural Alabama, Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen said he would stop issuing all marriage licenses to avoid having to give them to gay couples. Allen said Alabama law gives judges the option of granting licenses, and "I have chosen not to perform that function."

Governors in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas also railed against the ruling. And clerks in some of the affected states refused to issue licenses, citing a three-week grace period allowed by the Supreme Court or forms now out of date that specify "bride" and "groom."

But by Friday afternoon, couples had received licenses in all but one of the 14 states, according to the Human Rights Campaign. In Louisiana, where Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal is running for the White House as a conservative Christian, same-sex couples were turned away.

Hai Nguyen, left, and Jay Mark Streeter Jr. join hands as deputy marriage commissioner John Pleskach officiates their wedding at City Hall in San Francisco, Friday, June 26, 2015. (AP Photo)

"It was kind of bittersweet," said Earl Benjamin, who waited with his partner for hours for a license and was finally told that the state's ban on same-sex marriage remained intact - for now.

In Texas, many counties held off on issuing same-sex marriage licenses until receiving guidance from Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, who scolded the Supreme Court but left counties in limbo for hours.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said Friday that same-sex marriages cannot take place immediately. But amid the confusion over when weddings should legally begin, three couples received their marriage licenses in Hattiesburg, and took their vows on the courthouse steps.

Other clerks scrambled to issue licenses as gay couples rushed to their offices.

In Arkansas, Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane held a hand to his heart after the Supreme Court's ruling.

"It is a special day," he said, choking up. "I'm honored to be a part of it."

Lori Harvey, left, and her partner Amy Lipe shrug off a awkward moment when deputy clerk Paula Majors asked Harvey if she was ready to get married at the Civic Center in Evansville, Indiana. When asked, Harvey hesitated but then came back with a resounding yes. (AP)

Jessica Dent and Carolee Taylor got married a few blocks from the courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama.

"Never thought it would happen in our lifetime," said Taylor.

After their ceremony, they returned to the courthouse to file their license, making them officially married in the conservative state that had fought back against efforts to legalize gay marriage. After a federal judge ruled earlier this year that the state's gay marriage ban was unconstitutional, about 500 same-sex couples were married before the Alabama Supreme Court directly ordered probate judges to stop issuing the licenses.

"We waited so long. When it came through, I can't think of a better way to celebrate, the decision and our love," said Dent, walking out of the courthouse holding a sign that said "All love is equal."

Paula Jackson and Stacie Rodriguez of Plainwell, Michigan, apply for a marriage licence at Kalamazoo County Clerk's office after the US Supreme Court ruling in favor of same sex marriage on June 26, 2015. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says he will "honor, respect and uphold" the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage. (AP)

Some Southern politicians said they were concerned about the "religious freedom" of ministers, cake bakers and others who might be asked to participate in ceremonies.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a memo saying the government should not pressure people to violate their "sincerely held religious beliefs." He later clarified that he does not condone discrimination or authorize state agencies to deny benefits to same-sex couples.

Jindal also issued a statement vowing to never stop fighting for "religious liberty."

"Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that," he wrote.

The Supreme Court allows for a 25-day delay while it considers a rehearing. The Louisiana Clerks Association advised clerks to wait until then before issuing licenses.

Wedding cakes provided by All Saints Episcopal Church of East Lansing are cut inside the Ingham County Courthouse in Mason, Michigan. Michigan was one of 14 states enforcing a ban on same-sex marriage. (AP Photo)

In other states, governors, even those who disagree with the ruling, made decisive statements, calling gay marriage the law of the land and instructing their clerks to issue licenses right away.

Mass marriages were planned in Michigan, Kentucky and Georgia. Minister Danielle Goeckel stood on the steps of the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta on Friday morning holding a sign reading: "Yes I will gladly marry you!"

The fee for her services? Two hugs.

In Arkansas, Pulaski County Judge Chris Piazza, who struck down the state's gay-marriage ban last year, presided over one of the state's first same-sex weddings.

"I looked at their faces and realized how much this meant to them," Piazza said after marrying two men in his courtroom.

Tony Chiaro, left, and Earnie Matheson, right, exchange rings in the first same sex marriage performed in Pulaski County. (AP Photo)

Luke Barlowe, one of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case, said he's pleased that their fight will save younger generations of gay people the pain he endured.

But still he resents it took nine strangers on the Supreme Court to decide he has the right to love Jimmy Meade, his partner of 47 years. They married in Iowa in 2009, and sued to have their marriage recognized in Kentucky.

For decades, they hid their relationship, pretending to be roommates and avoiding public affection.

On Friday, they walked down the sidewalk in downtown Louisville, holding hands.

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