HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Rebecca Brocious has worn a wedding band for eight years. There is a photo album to commemorate the day, with Brocious in her wedding dress, smiling at the camera.
But until Tuesday’s landmark decision by U.S. District Judge John Jones III that overturned Pennsylvania’s ban on gay marriage, the ring signified only a commitment ceremony between Brocious and her partner, Beth Wagner, that was performed on a vacation in 2006.
Now, the couple hopes their wedding rings will mean legal standing as a married couple.
“We were always waiting on the state to overturn it,” Brocious said Wednesday. “We had the commitment ceremony, we had our rings made, but we were always hoping it would be overturned and we could be married here.”
“This is huge,” Wagner said. “Not just for us, for the entire gay community in the state.”
Brocious, a lifelong Williamsport resident, and Wagner, born in Lock Haven, have been together for 18 years and have a 5-year-old son. They were in line at the Lycoming County courthouse at 9 a.m. sharp Wednesday morning to apply for their license, although they didn’t encounter the long line they were fearing, Brocious said.
“We were thinking, ‘How crowded will it be? Should we camp out overnight?’ ” she said with a laugh. “Our son had a church event scheduled for noon, and we told him we might not be able to make it, thinking that we’d be in line all morning. But we were the very first people there.”
There was a bit of uncertainty on the part of the Register and Recorder’s office, Brocious said.
“The application went through, but the woman who helped us was a little nervous, I think,” she said. “They had to call the solicitor, just to confirm that we could apply for it, and he said to go ahead and issue it.”
She said the couple had spoken with a lawyer Tuesday, just in case, who advised them that there was no stay against the measure. There is a three-day waiting period between applying for the license and receiving it, which always has been the case in Pennsylvania.
The county Register and Recorder’s office confirmed two applications for same-sex marriage licenses Wednesday, although only Brocious and Wagner’s was approved. A second couple applied, but the wedding date they previously had decided on was outside of the 60 days that a marriage license is valid for in the state.
“The 60 days starts after the three-day waiting period, and with the date they had chosen, the license would have expired before then,” said Register and Recorder Annabel Miller. “They said they’ll be back.”
Brocious said she and Wagner now are looking ahead to an actual ceremony and firming up plans for an officiant.
The couple attends St. Boniface Church, but even though Monsignor Stephen McGough is “very open with us and very accepting,” he cannot, by the rules of the Catholic church, perform the ceremony.
Tuesday’s ruling means that same-sex couples can apply for and receive marriage licenses, but ceremonies performed by a recognized authority – justice of the peace, judge, minister and so on – cannot be performed until after a 30-day window to appeal the decision has expired.
However, it appears as though that window will close without incident.
In a news release made available Wednesday, Gov. Tom Corbett said he will not seek to appeal the decision, despite his personal beliefs about gay marriage, because an appeal would be “extremely unlikely to succeed.”
“The court has spoken, and I will ensure that my administration follows the provisions of Judge (John) Jones’ order with respect for all parties,” Corbett said.
Regardless of what the next 30 days will hold, Brocious said the overturning of the ban is something that the couple has been looking forward to for a very long time.
“We were so excited to be there and be applying for it,” she said. “For the people working in the office, it was probably just another day, but for us, it was so monumental.”