This is What Equality Looks Like

Marriage equality arrives in Arizona, and in Pima County, it was a day all about new love and long-time commitment

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Nearby another couple is marrying, Mike Greenbaum, 76 and Chuck Gould, 68. Gould is shyly smiling at everyone surrounding them. The long-time couple, together since 1970, were the second couple to marry outside. Everyone tried to be respectful of the multiple wedding spaces taking place, but one time, even McCormick had to yell out that a black pen was needed so witnesses could sign a license. A nearby photographer and reporter offered up his pen. It was that kind of day—everyone taking part in what was before them and even reporters cooperatively going from couple to couple once vows were exchanged and licenses signed.

From the corner of everyone's eyes during the festivities, U.S. Congressman Ron Barber could be seen walking toward the breezeway. Once there, he milled around from couple to couple, offering congratulations, as well as taking the time to witness their ceremonies and sign their licenses. Several took him up on the offer.

While the Franklin-Hicks said their vows, Barber was with Chandler, who was finally asked to perform a marriage ceremony for a lesbian couple, pleased to be there with Barber and a beaming Chandler, happy to finally perform his first wedding of the day.

At that point there were three ceremonies taking place at one time, and the press were having difficulty figuring out which group to witness, their importance or just, in reality, how to clone themselves from group to group. It was, to editorialize here, an amazing moment that was sincerely beautiful—a true Tucson moment taking place right there and everyone watching seemed to recognize that very fact, tears or no tears.

Another couple, Bob Hankinson and George Adam, were wed, with Bob recalling when he first bought the rings they wore, 27 years ago in the jewelry department at Mervyn's—a stunned store clerk had difficulty breathing when she realized she was being asked to size rings for two men and rushed to find another clerk to help.

One example of where everyone was back then, the notion of two people of the same sex being in a loving and committed relationship, and now, Hankinson explains, being legally married will offer huge financial relief for the couple in terms of health insurance and taxes, further protections as they get older.

At the Franklin-Hicks wedding across the way, surrounded by their children and a friend or two, the couple reminds each other that in reality, being together 14 years that they committed to each other 12 years ago. "This is just a paper," Davin says, yet the co-chair of Tucson's GLBT City Commission adds that it reminds him that Nancy makes him a better person.

Holding hands throughout, Nancy says, "I stand here with all the ancestors behind us, all the men and women over the years," who were never able to be recognized as a couple. Tears lightly well up in her eyes.

Getting ready to head out to return to additional campaign activities, Barber tells the Weekly that he heard licenses were going to be given out in Pima County this morning while he was in a Sierra Vista, meeting with the town newspaper's editorial board.

"I wanted to be here to congratulate couples," Barber says, those couples who are making the same kind of commitment he and his wife made 47 years ago. "I wasn't surprised by the court's decision ... but it was a very wise decision by the state Attorney General to not appeal. If he did, it would have been a waste of taxpayers' money."

Merlin Spillers and Lee Roden, together since 1969, had earlier walked through the breezeway with bright smiles on their faces, saying hello to everyone as they passed, wearing brightly colored tennis shirt—pink and green. After taking their wedding vows, Spillers recalled their early life in Santa Cruz, Calif., when they had what was the community's first LGBT commitment ceremony.

The local newspaper wasn't considered very LGBT friendly, so Spillers went to the office and talked to the editor. The week-of their commitment ceremony things changed in Santa Cruz, they said, and it started with a huge story about their ceremony. "We were told we helped save lives," he says.

Barber wasn't the only politician showing up that morning. State Rep. Stephanie Mach was there, dressed in a black business suit and white blouse, ready to marry her long-time friend Dustin Cox to his partner Aaron Singleton. Mach says it was all a last-minute but festive decision—with Cox asking her to officiate that morning and Mach getting on the Universal Life Church website to register as a wedding officiant.

It all came together, she says, tears in her eyes explaining why it was important for her to be there for her friends. "Truth is, it doesn't matter, two people who love each other" shouldn't have to be prevented from making a legal commitment to one another, LGBT or not, she says.

Love is love—the theme of the day in every way, people continued to explain, telling stories to media and anyone who'd listen on how they met, what this meant to them and how happy they were that marriage equality was indeed now in Arizona.

One of the last couples to marry that afternoon as most of the press left to file their marriage equality stories of the day, Eric Kaldahl and Jeff Owens, both dressed in suits, had planned to travel to San Diego that weekend to get married. They decided to marry in Arizona at the courthouse and travel to San Diego to celebrate. Yes, they are going to Disneyland on the way.

"It's a very happy and unexpected day," Owens says, smiling wide.

Chandler, sitting on a nearby bench, taking in a moment during an obvious lull in the activity, sits with a leg crossed over, revealing U.S. Army fatigues and boots under his cassock. Yes, he's a chaplain, in the reserves, he says. He's now done three weddings since he arrived in the morning, his two other associate pastors doing two others, including a straight wedding.

He's the lone clergy hold-out now, ordering pizza for everyone still there. Even most of the media are gone. The breezeway entrance is being closed and everyone is asked to move to the east entrance off Church Avenue. The clerk's office plans to stay open until 9 p.m. allowing people to get licenses and more and more people arrive.

On my way to a community rally at Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church that evening, Chandler is standing at the top of the court steps with a family before him—two men, dressed for the occasion. One father, is tenderly holding his young daughter in a dress that goes over his arm. Between the dads stand their young son, dressed in a suit, everyone smiling.

These are the steps of foreclosure hearings. These are the steps where people come for court procedures—both happy and sad. At that moment, these are Chandler's steps and steps that for the first time in many years, lead to marriage equality in Pima County.

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