Connie Garcia and Crystal Stodghill of Lubbock showed up at the Lubbock County Courthouse before 8 a.m. and became the first same-sex couple in Lubbock County to be issued a marriage license. They arrived at the courthouse early in hopes of beating traffic, they weren’t expecting to make history.
After several software changes, the Lubbock County Clerk’s office was able to update their marriage license forms to make them non-gender specific. Previously the forms had read “Mr. and Mrs.” before the signee’s names. Now the form has two blank spaces with an “and” in the middle.
“Now we are fully in compliance with the Supreme Court decision,” said Lubbock County Clerk Kelly Pinion, referencing the Supreme Court’s recent decision to prohibit bans on same-sex marriage. Because Texas state law had previously banned same-sex marriage, the decision has sent the Lubbock County Clerk’s office into a frenzy changing forms and policy.
“People didn’t understand why I wanted a perfect product. Well our suggestions were just white it out or just use a sharpie and mark it out, but this is a permanent record and that would not be pretty,” Pinion said.
The County Clerk’s office is not counting the number of same-sex marriage licenses they issue, but they did report that 30% more marriage licenses were issued Monday than on any previous Monday in June.
Connie Garcia and Crystal Stodghill are overjoyed to finally wed. Now that they have a license, they are planning a small ceremony with friends and family for July 14th.
“I’ve never been big on ceremonies, but then I met (Stodghill) and then I knew all along this was someone I could see myself marrying,” said Garcia. “I actually think I want (marriage) now and for it to actually be a possibility now is just amazing. Before it had never really mattered to me and now this is something that’s like i want this to happen.”
The couple expressed that they were surprised and excited to hear that Lubbock would be issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The process of getting a license took roughly 20 minutes for Garcia and Stodghill.
Garcia and Stodghill say that beyond the emotional significance of a marriage license, being able to officially marry will allow them to make payments and receive benefits they wouldn’t have otherwise. Stodghill says that being married will help discount her school tuition, Garcia says that she looks forward to buying a car and a house together with her soon-to-be wife.
Kristi Clem and her partner are another same-sex couple who received a marriage license in Lubbock County Monday. Clem says that while the legal and financial benefits that come with a marriage license are monumental, the most important part of being married for her is the message it sends to the 14 month old son she has with her partner.
“More importantly, he gets to be raised in a world where equality is there, where he doesn’t have to defend his mothers because they are equal,” Clem explained.
Clem said that it hasn’t always been easy to be in a same-sex partnership while living in Lubbock.
“Probably part of the reason we were nervous to come today was because we didn’t know what we were going to have to face,” Clem said. “There has been some cruelty and some very harsh things said since this ruling has come out.”
Reverend Dr. Tony Thieman-Somora of Lubbock’s Metropolitan Community Church also showed up at the County Clerk’s office to provide support to same-sex couples applying for licenses. While he sees same-sex marriage licenses nationwide as a victory, he believes the LGBT community still has an uphill battle.
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, Thieman-Somora has been driving around the South Plains to wed same-sex couples. He spoke with Lubbock couples this week who said they won’t be getting married out of fear of workplace repercussions.
“Well they wanted to get married, but without having anybody to do that, that’s the problem, Thieman-Somora said. ” That’s why I made the trip and I’m going to be making trips if need be.”