By Ginger Leonard
June 26, 2015. Mercy, that was a day. A day that started with anticipation of the ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States. A day watching the SCOTUS blog give updates line by line that would have a profound effect on thousands of couples around the country, including several couples here in Shelby County. A day that began with the uncertainty of when and/or if county clerks would even issue licenses. A day of relief and gratitude when they did. A day of media frenzy around the couples that were courageous enough to sit before the county clerks and apply for their licenses and a day of elation when those licenses were printed and a packet placed in their hands. It was a day of firsts and lasts and bests. It was a day of celebration.
That celebration culminated at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center where about 200 celebrants gathered under the threat of storms to share in the history of the moment. The crowd was filled with people of every color, every age, and every gender identity, all there for the same reason: to celebrate the recognition that our relationships were just as valid as any other couple’s. Some waved signs. Others wrapped themselves in the rainbow flag, or held it high and proud for those passing on the street to see. A MATA bus driver, joined by countless other drivers, honked and waived their support. Passengers saluted with thumbs up and “number one” gestures. The support from strangers who joined in the celebration in their way was heartening.
Three couples came to the center to have their marriages solemnized by one former county commissioner and two ordained ministers. Former county commissioner Steve Mulroy stood with his couple and, as the clouds parted letting the sun blast through, stated how apropos for the clouds to part and clear skies appear just as he was about to marry his first same-sex couple. The next two couples, one male (who have been together for more than 20 years) and one female, came with their respective ministers who spoke with grace and conviction as to the importance of the vows each couple was about to exchange. The crowd roared their support as each and every couple said their “I do’s” and kissed their spouses.
Reginald Milton, current county commissioner, has been a visible supporter of the LGBT community for some time. He talked about the past days of the civil rights fight, of segregation and exclusion, and how this day was also about civil rights but also about human rights and inclusion and dignity. This day the country had taken a giant step towards equality, and he felt the importance of this event just as much as everyone else there.
The day ended with smiles and hugs, with handshakes and pats on the back, with tears and laughter. It ended with the squeals of children running through the crowd, with photos and Facebook posts, with phone calls and text messages. And for a few moments on that Friday, the LGBT community — our community— and the MGLCC were the center of attention. But as all things must, the celebration had to end, and as people were leaving, one couple was overheard talking about having to go home and either cook dinner or stop somewhere to pick something up because their kids had to eat.
The LGBT community has been fighting for years to be treated like any other married couple, to have bestowed upon them all the rights and responsibilities that marriage brings until death do us part, so how appropriate that this day’s celebration should end with a couple trying to herd their children to the car and trying to figure out what to feed them. How normal. How so very normal.