Three same-sex couples on Thursday became the first to legally marry in the Bartholomew County. But ceremonies at the County Courthouse occurred only after Clerk Tami Hines sought and received legal approval to ignore gender designations on marriage license paperwork.
Another seven same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses Thursday, but with ceremony logistics to be arranged later.
The capitulation to allow the licenses came after hours of local frustration and uncertainty that began Wednesday when U.S. District Court Chief Judge Richard Young overturned Indiana’s ban on same-sex unions. Hines refused to grant the marriage licenses that day, saying she was waiting for instructions from Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
One couple, Cheyenne Mockobee and Christina Reeves, arrived at the county courthouse at 8:30 a.m. Thursday and asked for a marriage license. When they were refused, the couple recited a different type of wedding vow — to stay at the clerk’s office until Hines relented on the license.
Hines met with judges at noon Thursday, where she presented her concerns about the legality of issuing licenses using the state’s electronic marriage documents, which only give the option of marriage between a man and woman.
Hines said she wanted to get the approval of the local judges before entering the name of someone under a gender specification they did not meet.
“I would be in contempt of the law if I were to do that in any other case,” Hines said. “So I requested an order from the judges, clearing me to issue the forms.”
Judges Stephen Heimann, Kathleen Coriden and James Worton determined Young’s ruling did require Hines to issue licenses, even though the state had not yet corrected the marriage forms.
Because he and the other two judges had been busy in hearings Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, Heimann said, he thought it made sense that Hines waited until noon on the second day to speak with them.
Starting about 1:30 p.m., Hines and her staff began issuing marriage licenses to local same-sex couples.
The current marriage forms issued by the state — requiring information from a “bride” and a “groom” — were electronically filled out, and clerk’s office officials asked each couple to determine who would be listed as the bride and who would be the groom.
At 1:50 p.m., directly outside the door to Hines’ office, Mockobee and Reeves became the first same-sex couple in Bartholomew County to be married.
The couple, together for five years, married in the courthouse with their 1½-year-old son, Jagger, with them.
Lawrence Jackman, a retired Presbyterian minister in Columbus, married the couple and — for lack of a steady place to write — filled out the marriage paperwork on top of a sign used by Pride Alliance protesters that day.
“It feels amazing,” Mockobee said. “I stood by what I said this morning, and it happened.
“When you stand up for what you believe in and you stand up long enough, it will happen.”
“I still feel a little bit shocked,” Reeves said. “But I’m very excited and very glad to have the county realize that they need to do the right thing in this case.”
Reeves said the family planned to have a small celebration to commemorate the occasion.
Carolyn Cory and Maddy Halloran, Hope residents and a couple of 35 years, attempted to acquire a license Wednesday and were rejected, but they returned Thursday morning to protest.
After receiving their license, Cory and Halloran participated in a tear-filled ceremony, also conducted by Jackman, in the courthouse lobby. They became the second Bartholomew County same-sex couple to be married.
“We are delighted,” Cory said. “We would have liked to have friends and family here, but we just thought we should go ahead and do this in case a stay is issued. We are thrilled that the clerk did the right thing.”
“We are happy we will be protected (by law) now,” Halloran said. “That’s always been a big concern.”
Eric Malanoski and Jonathan Buckler also joined the ranks of the first same-sex couples to be married in Bartholomew County.
The couple of five years were married in a courtroom in the courthouse in front of a small group of Pride Alliance members.
Malanoski and Buckler were married by Robert O’Leary, a Columbus resident who received an online certification stating he could perform marriage ceremonies.
“We are elated,” Malanoski said, his voice quivering with emotion and excitement. “I think the right thing is being done today.”
Melinda Gilley and Rachel Ailles, a couple who have been together for five years, said they were ecstatic the clerk finally issued licenses and were proud they could be married in their hometown.
“We stuck it out. We knew that eventually Indiana would come around,” Gilley said.
Gilley and Ailles were working on plans for their wedding, taking into consideration availability of friends and family before taking that step.