Pickaway News Journal

Thu, Jul 20, 2017

Laurelville couple first to marry following marriage equality ruling

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Brigit Elizondo (left) and Karlene Kelley were united in marriage Friday in Circleville. (Submitted photo)

CIRCLEVILLE - A Laurelville couple became the first same-sex couple to be married in Pickaway County after the Supreme Court declared gay marriage a constitutional right on Friday.

Karlene E. Kelley and Brigit L. Elizondo of Laurelville were united in marriage at 12:13 p.m. in a ceremony officiated by Circleville Mayor Don McIlroy.

"I can't get the smile off my face," Elizondo said. "I was honking my horn and screaming at the top of my lungs all the way home. We feel different. It's strange, but it really feels different. It's nice to be able to say, 'This is Karlene, my wife.' It feels fantastic."

Kelley and Elizondo have been together more than 16 years, and they said they wanted to be part of history the day marriage became an available option for them.

Elizondo said she was at work at the Mid-Ohio Food Bank when the news came through, and Kelley called to tell her.

"I got permission from my boss to leave right away, and I drove an hour home to get her," Elizondo said. "We just wanted to be there. We were excited when we found out we were the first. The mayor's office was wonderful, too. It was just a great experience."

The Supreme Court decision was 5-4 in favor of marriage equality, overruling same-sex marriage bans in 14 states, including Ohio.

Locally, the Pickaway County Probate Court has been prepared for about two months for whatever the Supreme Court's decision would be, according to Judge Jan Michael Long.

"About two months ago, we put together a group of probate judges as a working group to identify what our probate courts might anticipate in the event the Ohio ban on same-sex marriage was struck down," Long said. "We've been planning as a statewide association of probate judges to make changes as promptly as we could."

Long said marriage applications and the licenses themselves have already been modified to be more gender-neutral, identifying the subjects as "spouse" or "applicant" instead of "bride" and "groom."

"Those changes were already in place," Long said. "Then when we saw the decision this morning, we had a group of judges read the decision so they could determine exactly what it said and what it meant."

He said the judges reached the conclusion that the decision was very clear: The ban was struck down, marriage was a fundamental right, and the effect was to take place immediately.

"While each probate judge can arrive at a different conclusion, this association of probate judges is sending out advisories on how to handle it," Long said. "I think everyone across the state was prepared. From what I gather, things are progressing rather smoothly and promptly throughout the state. I haven't heard otherwise."

Kelley and Elizondo were the first of two couples to obtain marriage licenses after the Supreme Court decision on Friday.

Kristen L. Strean and Jamie A. Kingsland of Commercial Point also applied for a marriage license but have decided to put together a small wedding ceremony so family and friends can participate. They have 60 days from the date the license was issued to officially marry.

Kingsland said they have been together about six years and have twin boys and a daughter together.

"It's been a long time coming," Kingsland said. "We wanted to be part of history on the day it happened. That was important to us. As soon as it was available, we wanted to go out and get our marriage license."

Kingsland said they have considered getting married in another state that already acknowledged same-sex marriage, but it wouldn't have been the same.

"We could have gone to this state or that state, but we wanted it in Ohio because that's where we live," she said.

Strean said it was also important for them to have their families share the experience of a wedding.

"It's as important to them as it is to us," Strean said.

She said Friday's decision makes her feel like she is actually a citizen just like everyone else now.

"I think just for it to be recognized throughout the United States is huge," Strean said. "You always walk in somewhere and wonder if it's going to be weird for us coming in together or holding hands. Now it's everywhere. We can do whatever and be a part of everything. We're a part of the whole now."

For Kelley and Elizondo, they are happy younger people will not have to wait until they are nearly 50 to begin their lives as a married couple.

"I'm so glad for this younger generation," Kelley said. "They were the ones who really fought for us. They don't think it's a big deal, but it is a big deal at almost 50."

She said when President Obama spoke about the Supreme Court's decision, it was like he was talking directly to them.

"Love is love," she said. "You don't choose who you fall in love with. And we do, we love each other. We've spent 17 years together, so we obviously love each other."

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the decision: "It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that."

Justice John Roberts, in his dissenting opinion, said "whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us."

"This court is not a legislature," Roberts wrote. "If you are among the many Americans - of whatever sexual orientation - who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today's decision. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it."

The full decision of the Supreme Court can be found here.

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