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Hours After Supreme Court Ruling, Louisville Same-Sex Couples Get Marriage Licenses

Tadd Roberts and Benjamin Moore
Laura Ellis
Tadd Roberts and Benjamin Moore

Nearly three hours after a Supreme Court ruling lifted bans on same sex-marriages across the U.S., the Jefferson County Clerk's Office staff was still was unsure about how to proceed.

Calls flooded the clerk’s office as soon as the ruling came down just after 10 a.m.—people inquiring about obtaining marriage licenses for same sex couples. The deputy clerks, however, kept telling the curious callers that none were being issued.

At least not yet.

Then, a couple hours after the Supreme Court's ruling, Gov.  Steve Beshear released a statementsaying the Kentucky Department of Libraries would revise the state's marriage license template and provide the forms to county clerks “for immediate use, beginning today.”

“Neither your oath or the Supreme Court dictates what you must believe,” Beshear wrote. “But as elected officials, they do dictate how we must act."

It took some time before the Jefferson County Clerk’s office was ready to hand out the licenses.

A handful of couples milled about in the hallways outside the office, talking to reporters, hugging each other and shaking hands.
Shortly after that, a spokesman for the clerk’s office said the license forms were ready.

With that, a line formed at the Jefferson County Clerks office.

Three couples, all men, filed into the office cramped with news media, lawyers, civil rights advocates and city officials and requested a marriage license. The Supreme Court case included plaintiffs from Kentucky, and some of them were among the first in line for licenses in Louisville.

Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza were the first to pay $35.50 for a marriage license. The men said they’d been waiting for the moment for nearly 35 years. They plan to marry in October at a church in the Clifton neighborhood.

Tadd Roberts and Benjamin Moore were among the next to get a license. Immediately after they signed their name on the form, their friend, the Rev. Laura Barclay, began officiating a marriage ceremony in the center of the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office.

It was the first known legal same-sex marriage in Louisville, said a spokesman for the clerk's office.

The men, wearing tuxedos, were flanked by a few family members and a hoard of cameras, smart phones and people quickly slipping into tearful grins.

“It’s huge,” Moore said shortly after the ceremony. “We’ve been waiting for this day for a very long time.”

Their relationship was forged 12 years ago when Moore made Roberts tag along with him to pay a parking ticket at the University of Louisville.

The men were engaged four years ago on Christmas day.

Last weekend, they had a large ceremony at the Seelbach to celebrate their love. Moore said they had hoped the Supreme Court’s ruling would come before their ceremony.

“But once you pay all those deposits, there’s no turning back,” Moore said.

In 12 years, the men have purchased a home together in the Crescent Hill neighborhood, they adopted a dog and, now, are thrilled to have the opportunity to carry out the rest of their lives with the recognition they’ve desired for years.

“We now have legal protections, which are so important and crucial, we’ve been through the sickness and health part and so we understand how important it is to have that protection and be recognized,” Moore said.

As for what’s next, the couple plans to adopt a child and look forward to heading into the future as a legally married couple.

“It’s unbelievable, it really is unbelievable, I don’t know if it’s set in yet,” Moore said.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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