By Chad Nance
“Every hard rocking wreck on the highway
Every heartbroken rule of the road
Every true thing we wrote on the wind is still singing
Love is the last thing to go..”
– Kris Kristofferson
“Let me ride through the wide open country that I love,
Don’t fence me in.
Let me be by myself in the evenin’ breeze,
listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees,
Send me off forever but I ask you please,
Don’t fence me in.”
– Cole Porter
Robin Idol and her wife Marry Ann Ellis stood in the cold mist outside of the Forsyth County government center and took vows of fidelity, commitment, and love in front of their neighbors, their mothers, and best of all their 15 year-old daughter, Rose. “We just wanted so badly to do it here at home. That was very important. I’ll always love this state and I’ve never wanted to leave.”
On Monday morning the Forsyth County Registrar of Deeds office issued the first marriage licenses since Amendment One was declared unconstitutional by a Federal Judge early Friday evening. US Army veteran Billy Rucker and his spouse Tom White were the first to be issued a license. The couple have been together for 23 years and plan to get married Monday evening.
“It’s nice to know we’re legal and have the same rights as everybody else,” said Billy Rucker after having a moment to bask in the joy. When he and Mr. White were issued their license a cheer went up from the few family and friends as well as the folks from Pride Winston-Salem who were helping couples through the process.
Both Mr. Rucker and Mr. White’s faces glowed as they walked out of the Registrar’s office, but emotions were not simply happy ones. There was also a firm sense that marriage equality should have come to all Americans years ago. “We didn’t do this because we just needed a piece of paper.” Mr. White said. “Now we can buy a house.” The couple pointed out the practical reality that banning gay marriage had locked them out of privilege that most of us enjoy and never think about. Not only can this couple now purchase a home, they will be able to share health insurance and other financial benefits they had been denied.
Couples repeatedly mentioned the fact that they will now be able to be allowed to be physically present and involved in the decision making process should their spouse become ill or disabled. That was a real fear for folks before Marriage Equality. “They could make you leave the room before.” stated Marcel Spencer, the anxiety caused by the situation still on her face even after she and her partner of years, Lorrain Howard, were issued their license.
Ms. Spencer was full of nervous energy Monday morning in line at the door to the Government Center waiting to be let inside. “She’s excited.” Ms. Howard said. “She was waiting for me to go this morning.” The soon-to-be-weds made an adorable couple. Their love for one another and happiness were evident. Not only does the abolishment of Amendment One now mean that they can legally marry, it was an opportunity taken by Ms. Howard to come out to many of her friends and family. As soon as she was sure that she would able to get married, Ms. Howard posted to her facebook explaining to everyone who she was, who she loved, and finished by saying, “If you can’t look on this with love and understanding delete me now.” She said the outpouring of support and love have been touching and have made the occasion even happier.
Wayne Berrier and Keith Hicks have been together for 25 years. They picked up their marriage license on Monday and will be married on stage at Pride Weekend Saturday October 18th. “We wear rings now. The emotional aspect of marriage… we’ve always had that,” said Mr. Berrier. “We don’t have to worry anymore if something happens to one of us.” Mr. Hicks said. “Now we know that we have the definitive right to speak for one another.”
“I was awake at 5:00am this morning.” Mr. Hicks said. “We always get up early, but this was one day I didn’t want to miss at all.”
8 years ago, Robin Idol and Marry Ann Ellis met at work and began what they call an “Office romance”. This romance led to a committed life together and the couple were the first human beings married in Forsyth County following marriage equality for all. Ms. Idol stated that the passage of Amendment One was a very personal thing for her and her spouse. “On a deeper level it did feel like bullying,” she said. Jubilation was tempered by the reality that there are still two politicians desperate to get out the vote in a few weeks who have tried to obstruct the flow of history on marriage equality for political purposes. “We wanted to get married today so that we could say, ‘No backsies’.” Ms. Idol said smiling her warm and winning grin.
“”We went and got our rings on Saturday.” Ms. Ellis told me laughing. “We thought it was going to be a hurry up and wait kind of thing.”
“On Friday I heard there had been an decision and I just kept on my phone trying to find out if the decision had been made.” Ms. Idol said.
After they took their vows, Ellis and Idol were asked if there was anything they would like their daughter, Rose, to take away from today. Mary Ann Ellis thought of it for a moment and then quietly said. “Change does come. No matter how long it takes.”
In the case of marriage equality it has taken far too long, but the future is now. Watching this first wedding ceremony, the importance of the event was real as was the love and dedication between the newlyweds. Perhaps spending time with people who were just now given the right to marry will remind people what marriage is all about in the first place. Marriage isn’t about religion, it isn’t about politics, and it isn’t even about benefits and legal rights. Marriage is about love… which is always the last thing to go.