A happy run on same-sex marriage licenses

At City Hall to get their licenses the day after Pa.'s gay marriage ban was voided are Eliza Callard (left) and Emily Gavin, and Christopher Whibley and Bill Good (right).
At City Hall to get their licenses the day after Pa.'s gay marriage ban was voided are Eliza Callard (left) and Emily Gavin, and Christopher Whibley and Bill Good (right). (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 23, 2014

On the first full day of legalized gay unions in Pennsylvania, same-sex couples lined up outside the city Marriage License Bureau even before the doors opened at 8 a.m.

In the dreary corridors of City Hall, the smiles were incandescent.

"Congratulations, guys," a guard at the ground-floor security gate cheered as happy pairs made their way to the fourth-floor office.

For many, this was a moment they had doubted would happen.

Jerry Hofer and Paul Nye, both 58, have been together for 30 years. Next week, they hope to be married by their friend Mayor Nutter - one of four requests His Honor has received.

The men got engaged April 12 and thought they'd have to go to another state to apply for a marriage license. "The proposition of doing this in Pennsylvania seemed daunting," said Hofer, a medical-education worker.

Deidra Roots, 51, and Francine Allen, 63, got a marriage license in Cherry Hill in January after New Jersey legalized same-sex marriages. But Roots wants to change her last name to Allen and could not under Pennsylvania state law - until Tuesday.

That's when U.S. District Judge John E. Jones 3d struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriages, clearing the way for the commonwealth to legalize gay marriages.

After consulting with city clerks, Roots was told that the ruling now recognized her marriage license from New Jersey and that she could apply to change her name with the state Department of Transportation.

"I'm going straight to DMV," said an ecstatic Roots.

Susan King, 49, and Barbara Hall, 45, planned later Wednesday to share their marriage plans with their sons - Eli, 12, and Noah, 7.

"They know about the fight for marriage equality," said Hall, who teaches writing at Haverford College. King, a law professor at Widener University, said they would tell the boys: "Now we can get married. Pennsylvania has said we can get married."

The women were too busy grading papers Tuesday to file for a license, but were among the first Wednesday morning.

Hall said she had watched same-sex marriage be legalized in one state after another and did not expect the Pennsylvania news to move her so profoundly.

"I feel respected and included in a new way," she said. "We've been living a married life for a long time."

Eliza Callard, 40, a writer, and Emily Gavin, 43, an occupational therapist, celebrated the news Tuesday by having dinner with Callard's parents.

Her father, Dan, told them, "You had a wedding 15 years ago, and everyone who loves you knows you are already married."

But her parents urged them to "hurry and get a license before they take it away." And so, before Gavin had to be at work, they filled out the paperwork as a married couple.

The Marriage License Bureau was open until 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

By that point, 117 couples had filed for a marriage license. Bureau officials estimated that about three-quarters were same-sex couples.

Lyngine Calizo and Carol Nickolai, both 43, were standing - waiting for seats - about 5 p.m. when a reporter told them that Gov. Corbett had decided not to appeal the judge's ruling.

"That's awesome," Calizo said with surprise.

"We came down here quickly," she said, "because we were afraid he was going to appeal."

The women, who live in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood, have been together nearly 19 years and had a church ceremony seven years ago.

"It feels like a weight has been lifted," Calizo said. "Now we have the same rights as any married couple does."


jlin@phillynews.com

215-854-5659 @j_linq

www.inquirer.com/

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