“What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” — Not even Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
I was married for seven hours.
As I think back on those who’ve had shorter marriages, perhaps only Britney Spears has me beat.
Okay, let me rephrase that—I was legally married for seven hours. My husband Cory and I didn’t decide to end our marriage. The State of Indiana made that decision.
Their decision wasn’t one that settled well with us. After all this was our second marriage. In the great air quotation marks of marriages, we’ll be celebrating our nine year anniversary this week.
Back in 2005, the idea of getting legally married in Indiana wasn’t even on the radar, so on July 2nd of that year we gathered up all of our friends and family—100 to be exact—and had ourselves a commitment ceremony. After five years of dating and months of planning, the day came and went and we felt cemented—though not legal.
Even on the morning of June 25, 2014, the idea of getting legally married in Indiana wasn’t a possibility, but at Noon on that day U.S. District Judge Richard Young struck down the ban on same-sex marriage without a stay, making marriage between two people—regardless of gender—legal effective immediately.
I was an hour late hearing the news. As I typically do, I turned off my phone during a lunch with friends—because I have a serious addiction to social media (that’s another post!)—but per usual, the moment I ended my lunch I opened up my phone and went directly to Facebook. Post after post went something like this:
“Federal judge has ruled the ban on same-sex marriage in Indiana unconstitutional based on the 14th Amendment – love is love!”
My knees nearly buckled—I couldn’t breathe. Could this be real? Am I seeing clearly?
Other states have fallen one-by-one over the last year, but I never imagined Indiana. I thought we’d see the day—maybe—but I definitely felt we’d be one of the last to get struck down.
I called Cory as soon as I could. He didn’t answer. Stumbling out the words I left a message, “I-I-I don’t know if you’ve heard, but gay marriage is now legal in Indiana. Call me back as soon as possible.”
Cory works in a lab with really bad reception, so he didn’t get the news—or my message—until hours later. During the wait I had time to think through if we should rush and get married or wait and get married the following week in New York. We had been planning the trip for months as a way to celebrate our anniversary, and same-sex marriage has been legal there for three years. In my mind, making the trek to New York seemed safer than risking a marriage in Indiana.
But Indiana is our home. Cory and I both were raised here and we’ve chosen to live out our lives here. The decision was tough yet easy.
When Cory finally called me back that evening, we both came to the mutual decision over the phone—it was important for us to be married in our home state of Indiana. The next day would not work for us due to previous commitments, so we had to settle on Friday, June 27th.
“What if a stay is put in place by then?” I said.
“We’ll do it first thing in the morning,” he replied, “As soon as the Clerk’s Office opens.”
We indeed had to act fast—same-sex marriage in Indiana had only been made legal a day earlier, and most states, where a judge was responsible for the decision, had put a stay in place—halting those marriages—within a day to two days. We had to do this before the state filed an appeal and a circuit court put a stop to the marriages.
We only gave our family and friends a 45 minute warning. In fact, when I called my mom she was still in bed. We told them all the same thing:
“We’re getting legally married at 9:00 this morning at the base of Benny. We really hope you can make it.”
Cory and I couldn’t think of a better place to have our wedding. After all, Benny, also known as Beneficence, is a symbol of freedom and perseverance on the Ball State University campus. In one hand Benny holds a treasure chest, while her other hand is open, arm outstretched, to give the gift of knowledge, wisdom, and charity to those who grace her presence.
Benny would be the start of our new, legal life.
The shadows of Benny hung long and low as the morning sun shone across the stone steps that lead up to her. A couple of bikers and a jogger glided by, and a family with their soon-to-be Ball State University freshman stopped for a moment to take in her glory—snapping a picture, dad pulled his daughter in tight to let her know without words how proud he is of her.
Absorbing the scene, I waited nervously under her shadows—in 10 minutes I would marry my partner of 14 years.
Around 9:00 a.m., one-by-one friends and family arrived at the feet of Benny—some dressed in slacks and others in shorts. Two of our friends came straight from their morning workout, still sweaty but no time to return home for a shower.
Our reverend welcomed everyone and began sharing stories about our relationship. A gasp rang out as he described how Cory and I met:
“Nearly 14 years ago J.R. was preparing to leave for a study abroad trip to China, and a stranger stumbled into the yard he shared with his roommates. Tripping over a grill and setting the grass on fire, the stranger, Cory, said to J.R., ‘Someday I’m going to marry you.’ Friends and family, that day is today.”
A few more stories were shared with laughs and a few tears, and ten minutes later we consummated our marriage ceremony with a kiss—Benny’s arm stretched down to us as a reminder that we are here to change the world.
As the first same-sex couple to marry in Delaware County that morning, our 14-year commitment to each other was now legal.
The feeling was one I’d never felt. Sure, we’d been “married” nine years before, but this time it was different. It was as if the moment we kissed the world changed. The sun shone brighter, birds were singing louder, and I had an enormous weight lifted from my shoulders.
No longer would we need to worry about legalities such as hospital visitation, our finances, taxes, or even what would happen if one of us unexpectedly died. Beyond being husbands, we were now each other’s next of kin—not in ceremony, but by law.
At 4:37 p.m., seven hours after our wedding, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals granted Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller a stay. Same-sex marriage in Indiana will be no more.
To get the notification on my phone of the “Breaking News” that Indiana had ended my marriage was a kick in the gut, to say the least. It came during a celebratory dinner with friends—putting a somber tone on an evening that was filled with cheers toward equality and freedom. As the rain rolled in that night, I couldn’t help but think God must be shaking his head at those putting a stop to something so beautiful; something many had waited years for—a moment to be legal.
And now months and weeks of backs-and-forths from legal teams, plaintiffs, and defendants will determine if our 14-year commitment to one another is worthy of marriage.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from both sides on August 26th in Chicago. The appeals court could rule in our favor, but likely with another stay until the United States Supreme Court hears all of the other arguments from 10 other states where marriage has been made legal but with a stay.
A ruling by the Supreme Court could be at least a year away.
In the meantime, my husband and I hang in limbo. Despite the state and an appeals court putting a hold on marriages like ours, we are, indeed, legally married by the state of Indiana—they just won’t recognize our marriage. Thousands of couples who married during the lift are in the same boat.
But for us, to marry in our home state in front of our friends and family was a great feeling that nothing can change. As our marriage license from the State of Indiana proclaims:
“What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.”
That includes Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
We may have months ahead of us before the state will recognize our marriage again, but we know love will prevail. Nineteen other states have shown us that it always does.