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The First Same-Sex Marriages In the Former Confederacy

Jim Burroway

May 10th, 2014

They took place in scenic Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which is both a gay-friendly enclave (it’s “the Gay Capital of the Ozarks“) and a popular wedding destination. From Freedom to Marry:

The first couple to receive a marriage license was Kristin Seaton and Jennifer Rambo (right, photo by Kendall Wright), who have been together for more than four years. The couple’s witness was Cheryl Maples (center), who filed the Wright v. Arkansas challenge last summer and has worked tirelessly to win marriage in the state.

The couple drove up to Eureka Springs from Little Rock when they learned the Pulaski County courthouse wouldn’t be open today. The AP has more:

Seaton and Rambo slept in their Ford Focus after arriving at 2 a.m. Saturday, waking up every 30 minutes to make sure they were at the head of the line. The moment they saw another couple pull up, Seaton and Rambo bolted to the courthouse.

“I don’t think I ran that fast,” Rambo said.

The Carroll County Courthouse was the only one scheduled to open today for regular hours, and it’s due to close at 1:00 p.m. CDT. Here’s the scene when it opened:

As for the other counties in Arkansas:

The executive director of the Association of Arkansas Counties says county clerks are scrambling to prepare for same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses after the state’s ban on gay marriages was overturned.

Chris Villines says he and his staff will spend Saturday talking with county clerks and attorneys about the ramifications of Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling Friday that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

…Villines says he expects most clerks to be able to issue same-sex marriage licenses starting Monday.

That’s if the decision isn’t stayed before then.



May 10th, 2014 | LINK

A geographical quibble . . . the Mason-Dixon Line is the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland. The first same-sex marriages below the Mason-Dixon Line happened in those states.

Former Confederacy, yes.

Jim Burroway
May 10th, 2014 | LINK

Thanks for the correction. I’ve changed the headline

May 10th, 2014 | LINK

*AHEM* As a proud Marylander – born and raised – I must concur with jpeckjr. Our state was the first below the Mason-Dixon to have legally wed same-sex couples. But point taken. We are not generally considered part of “the South” (for better or worse), so I’ll grant that this marks the first gay wedding of the South (proper) :)

May 10th, 2014 | LINK

Thanks for changing the headline.

Eric Payne
May 10th, 2014 | LINK

My hope: all the couples in a “rush to the courthouse,” are marrying for the right reason, and not just to get their names in the paper, or a slot in the 11:00 news. I don’t care the length of time of a relationship — as a man married to my husband for four years, after 15 years together, I can tell you — marriage changes things.

I can’t tell you how it changes things, because the differences are subtle and nuanced. But there are changes… for instance, neither Bill nor myself refer to the other as “partner” or even “spouse,” as we used to do, when dealing with the “real” world. Both of us describe the other as “husband,” and if the “real world” doesn’t like it… oh, well. Tough mammary glands.

There’s also a change in feelings. The security in the law of our relationship led to a deeper comfortability with each other, and with how we interact in our lives with others. Our neighbor has all of Bill’s phone numbers, in case of emergency with me and I’m unable to contact him. Our grocery store employees, if only one of us is shopping, ask where the other is.

(And if I should be shopping, and not on my Segway, I will be asked, continuously, if I’m okay. Jeez… collapse in a place and have to be taken out by ambulance just two times, and everyone gets so antsy!)

But the last thing the marriage equality movement needs right now — when the feeling of reaching a tipping point, nationally, feels so close — is a divorce rate that matches or, heaven help us, exceeds that of the 50-some percent heterosexual divorce rate.

May 11th, 2014 | LINK

Something in my eyes. Damn onions….

Mazel Tov! :-D..

Regan DuCasse
May 11th, 2014 | LINK

Hi Eric,
I was just thinking. How many and how often are gay people subjected to the weddings of their friends and family and having in the back of their minds it’s more like a pipe dream to DARE to hope?

My lesbian friends are of many varying ages. From late 70’s to early 20’s and their perspectives about their hetero women friends and mother’s experiences compared to their own has really been an education for me.
The older lesbians were all in marriages to men that ended in divorce. A few after being married to men for decades and raising their children together to adulthood.

The much younger ones, NEVER married before. Had mixed feelings about it at all because of divorces in their families. A similar sentiment to their straight counterparts and why some heteros aren’t marrying until later.

With the laws changing so fast, so is the lexicon.
I am hearing a ss spouse referred to as husband or wife.
I do notice my younger lesbian friends participating in the inevitable spate of weddings of their hetero age group happily.
Where before, they didn’t want to bear so much witness to something they had no hope of having themselves.
There isn’t the same pain of isolation, but more joy in being a full participant and definitely the hope and expectation of it.
And their own family members have the same hope and expectation THEY will marry a ss spouse and support it fully.
The gap of times between attending ss weddings myself is closing quickly.
The winds have definitely shifted and are blowing much stronger these days.

ERIC: You’re right, marriage changes things. But I’m of the mind that the eagerness and charge to the courthouse is out of sheer joy at the dropping of the barrier to it.
Marriage open to gay couples certainly has changed things.

And as for the motive for marriage is to be in the media: It’s working for Kim Kardashian…

May 11th, 2014 | LINK

As a Eureka Springs, Ark. resident and friend of several ss couples who were able to get married here on Saturday, I don’t know of any who did it to be “mentioned in the media.” Some of the couples have been together for 20, 30, 40 and even 50 years.

Unlike many states, the judge in Ark. did not issue an immediate stay of his order. Couples rushed the county courthouse here (the only courthouse in the state open on Saturday) to get married, before a stay is requested next week by those appealing the ruling.

A happy day for many here in the South-Central US and Eureka Springs, Arkansas <—the wedding capital of the South.

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