SteveAlanmarried1

 

In early 2013, my partner Allan and I began hearing talk that nine of our friends and acquaintances were thinking of filing a lawsuit against the State of Arkansas challenging the ban and non-recognition of same-sex marriage. We were eager and willing to step forward. However, after much discussion, we decided it was in Allan's best interest, because of his employment, to support from the side lines. 

 

On July 2, 2013 the legal complaint was filed in the Circuit Court of Pulaski County, Arkansas. The plaintiffs in the case represented six counties in the state. (This would later become an issue.) 

 

Flash forward to Friday morning, May 9, 2014: We were told that a ruling was imminent and around 3 p.m. – we received word that Arkansas State Circuit Judge Chris Piazza had overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban. (The timing of this announcement would also play a major role in this historical ruling.) 

 

The door of opportunity to legally marry was now open. But we knew the window of timing was limited. A stay was unlikely because it was late Friday afternoon and our community rejoiced in the news, while our opponents scratched their heads in disbelief. 

 

Only one Courthouse in the state was open on Saturdays to receive a marriage license, and only for a brief time: 9 a.m. -1 p.m. It was located in Carroll County, in the most welcoming gay-friendly city in the state, Eureka Springs – known for its Diversity Weekends and legal Civil Unions of same-sex couples.  

 

I was joyous as my cousin/adopted brother lived in Eureka Springs. He was also a former Mayor and officiated over many civil unions for same-sex couples over the years. Upon hearing the news, he called me and said, "get up here first thing tomorrow morning, doors opening at 9 a.m." Reality was sinking in, that yes, I could legally marry my partner and have my family member officiate. How great was that. 

 

We awoke early Saturday morning and drove the four-hour trip from Little Rock to Eureka Springs. Allan and I wanted not only to get married, but we also wanted to be a part of this historic day in Arkansas. 

 

The line had already formed at the courthouse at 9 a.m. upon our arrival – we saw several friends and were immediately interviewed by a reporter from the Associated Press. High energy, smiles and laughs filled the courthouse steps. There appeared to be some confusion coming from the County Clerk’s office and 45 minutes later, we were instructed by the police to vacate the building. Confused and disappointed, we walked next door to eat breakfast.  

 

We were seated and had just received our coffee when I received a phone call telling us to return to the courthouse – that licenses would soon be issued. Upon our quick return to the courthouse we found our placement in the line was further back but we had no complaints. I estimated we had 20-25 couples ahead of us. 

 

Within a matter of minutes, we heard cheers and clapping as a lesbian couple had become the first in Arkansas to legally receive a marriage license. History had been made. Allan and I started believing this was really happening in Arkansas. As we waited in line, I would venture to say the line behind us had grown to 60-80 couples. A single clerk was issuing the licenses and it was taking her 10-12 minutes per couple. We stood in line for the next three and half hours as couple after couple received their licenses and marriages were taking place. 

 

One couple behind us in line were in their 70s. They had been partners for 50-plus years. They were telling stories of the hardships they had endured over their years together. And now, they were in hopes of finally being legally wed.

   

A little after noon, a city policeman informed the crowd that the issuance of licenses would stop at 1 p.m. (This was the normal office closing time on Saturdays ). And at 1 p.m., we were four couples away from receiving our license when the door was shut and we were told to vacate the building.  

 

We witnessed tears of love, happiness, disbelief and disappointment. We were happy for those who had gotten married—sad and disappointed not only for us, but for the 60 or so couples behind us in line. It would be a long and heart breaking drive home for us. But we had been part of history in Arkansas. 

 

Allan and I decided we would try once again Monday morning at the Pulaski County courthouse in Little Rock. We knew in our hearts that we had a very short opportunity of time before the state issued a stay in the issuing of licenses. 

 

We arrived at the courthouse at 6 a.m. where a line had already formed. News teams, reporters, Chad Griffin from the HRC, Cheryl K. Maples, the attorney who had handled the case and several of the plaintiffs were all visible. There were alloons and bubble machines, donuts and coffee – it was a festive morning all around.  

 

At 7:30, County Clerk Larry Crain announced the doors were opening, and he welcomed the crowd with jubilation. We were instructed to take a number, and fill out the wedding application. Allan and I received number twenty-nine. A reporter from the Associated Press recognized Allan and I from our interview we had done with him on Saturday in Eureka Springs and he wanted our thoughts of the day. Little did we know, our interviews and pictures he had taken would soon go world wide. 

 

At 9:15 a.m. on Monday, May 12, 2014 Allan and I received our marriage license. We went directly to the rotunda of the courthouse and found Rev. and Judge Wendell Griffen who officiated our wedding vows. We cried tears of joy and disbelief – we were actually a legally married couple in the state of Arkansas. The excitement and love surrounding us was unimaginable. Our happiness was not only for ourselves but for countless friends and acquaintances who had eagerly awaited for this historical time in Arkansas history. 

 

Hope in Arkansas. Hope is not only a verb, but a small city in southern Arkansas – the birthplace of former President Bill Clinton and presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee (polar opposites in the battle of equality.) Hope – to expect with confidence that our State Supreme Court will rule unconstitutional the stay that was put in place on Friday, May 16. Hope – that other loving couples will be afforded the same opportunity to have legally recognized marriages. And hope for equality for everyone. 

 

And to my husband, Allan Cox, I love you and I am so happy we were able to have just a small place in this historic moment in time in our home state of Arkansas.  

 

Equality, Y'all !!

Steve Thomas

 

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