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Landmark decision: Courthouse begins issuing same-sex marriage licenses

Only hours after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision on the legality of same-sex marriage in the United States, longtime Jonesborough residents David Phillips and Jeff Dupre stood in front of Washington County Clerk Kathy Storey, ready to pick up their marriage license.
“It means a lot to both of us,” Phillips said Friday, adding that he and Dupre were planning their ceremony for some time in July.
“It’s really more about equal rights,” Phillips added. “It’s about survivorship, putting the house in both of our names – just the same legal rights of any married couple.”
The Supreme Court’s decision, delivered June 26, declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states and brought about an almost immediate change for basic courthouse procedures across the country. At the Washington County Courthouse, staff struggled with how to adopt current practices to fit the new law.
“When the ruling came down, we didn’t know exactly what we were supposed to do,” Storey said in regard to the basic steps in processing a marriage license.
Normally, she said, applicants must bring in a picture ID and Social Security card, fill out a form, and pay the $105 licensing fee.
With applications currently geared toward “bride” and “groom,” “Of course the state had to change the way it was listed,” Storey said.
Staff temporarily solved the short-term dilemma by crossing out “bride” and “groom” and substituting “Applicant 1” and “Applicant 2,” a change which new forms will soon adopt.
Storey said they issued two licenses Friday, with more couples expected to come in this week. Phillips and Dupre were her first customers.
As the courthouse grappled with adjustments, the nation, too, struggled to adapt to this new definition of marriage, as Americans reacted with both celebration and dismay to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“I was joyfully surprised and very happy,” said local retired Lutheran pastor Ed Wolff. “I know Jeff and David. . . The ruling says they are no different than we are, and they can enjoy the lame liberties we can.”
Wolff acknowledged that for many people of the Christian community, the court’s decision is a hard one to accept, but he remains hopeful. “In my faith in God and Christ, we can work through it in love and listen to one another and move forward, and not let negative energy tear us apart.”
Wolff shared a story from the time he facilitated a church discussion on homosexuality. “One person said that his niece was gay, a lesbian” Wolff said. “At the end, he said ‘I haven’t changed my mind any, but I understand it a bit more and I love her all the same.’
“That’s all we can ask of anybody.”
Central Christian Church Pastor Bob Roberson shares the sentiment, if not the exact doctrine.
While acknowledging a personal belief that the Bible does not approve of same-sex relations “any more than it does in sexual relations before marriage,” he calls for Christians to remember who they represent.
“My recommendation is that Christians act like Christians are supposed to act,” Roberson said. “We don’t respond with hate. We don’t respond by calling names. God calls us to love.
“It’s not our job to judge those in the world. Our job is trying to make the church the best it can be,” Roberson added.