OHIO VALLEY — Internet and cable service at the home of Rhonda Moon and Wendy Gilkey went down Friday morning for repairs just as news of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down same-sex marriage bans was breaking nationwide.
Moon and Gilkey, of Meigs County, Ohio, were the first same-sex couple to be legally married in Mason County, W.Va., last October when it became legal for them to wed in West Virginia — but not in their home state.
Moon said she found out about the historic decision when her mother-in-law called and said, “Let me be the first to congratulate you.”
“I said, ‘What are you talking about?’” Moon said, relaying the moment she learned her marriage would now be legally recognized in Ohio and every other state.
Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage was voted upon in 2004. Friday’s 5-4 ruling on the cases by the U.S. Supreme Court included challenges that started in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. After last October’s ruling legalizing gay marriage in West Virginia, several same-sex couples from the Buckeye State began traveling to the neighboring Mountain State to be married.
Those Ohio couples will now have their marriages in West Virginia recognized in their home state and beyond. The ruling places them on level footing with heterosexual couples.
Still, Moon said she didn’t quite believe it until President Barack Obama interrupted morning television to respond to the announcement.
“My grandson was here and I brought him in to watch. I said, ‘You need to pay attention to this because this affects your life and everyone else’s life,’” she said.
A former Meigs County resident didn’t have to watch the historic event unfold on television because she was in Washington, D.C., on Friday.
Amber Snowden was the 2002 valedictorian of Meigs High School. She then went on to graduate summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2006 and an MPA in 2009 from Ohio University. She was a public information specialist in Mecklenburg County, N.C., and is now a public policy coordinator at the International City/County Management Association in Washington, D.C. She monitors legislation and Supreme Court cases that affect local governments, advocates on behalf of her members, and keeps them informed.
“I’m proud to live in a country that recognizes that love is love, no matter what its form, and that all people are entitled to dignity under the law. I’m excited to be here to see it happen,” Snowden said.
Snowden provided Ohio Valley Publishing with photos from the historic day in her new, adopted hometown.
Friday’s ruling brought about a flurry of activity in courthouses across the nation, including in Ohio where same-sex marriages began taking place after the announcement.
In Gallia County, Judge Thomas S. Moulton Jr. said Gallia County Probate Court had already received some calls Friday from people inquiring about marriage licenses.
Moulton said Friday afternoon he hadn’t had time to review the court’s entire decision and its implications but planned to do so. He added that probate court will need to update its computer system to adjust to the changes, and his court has already made a request to update the software. When a ruling like this happens, there are several housekeeping items that need to be addressed, including changing marriage license forms to reflect “bride and bride” or “groom and groom.”
As for what his staff was telling people of the same sex who wanted a marriage license: “We’re telling them we need time to review the decision and update our computer system.”
Moulton said Gallia County Probate Court may be able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples sometime next week, depending on when software updates can be made.
A call to Judge L. Scott Powell of Meigs County Probate Court was made but not returned by press time. Moulton did, however, say he had been in discussions with Powell on how to proceed with the changes.
As even President Obama acknowledged, not everyone is in support of same-sex marriage.
“I know that Americans of good will continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue,” he said in his speech to the nation. “Opposition, in some cases, has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact and recognize different viewpoints, revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a statement: “While Ohio argued that the Supreme Court should let this issue ultimately be decided by the voters, the Court has now made its decision.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has been pondering a run for the presidency, released a statement that said: “We must respect (the Supreme Court’s) decision.”
After watching the president’s speech Friday, Moon said her grandson turned to her and asked, “Are you (and Gilkey) finally married?”
“Yes, we’re finally married now,” Moon responded.
“For real, Nannie?” Her grandson asked again.
“For real,” Moon said.