Despite earlier indications that Acadiana’s same-sex couples would have to wait three weeks before they would be allowed to marry, area clerks of court on Monday changed course and issued nine marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
Six couples in Lafayette Parish, two in Iberia Parish and one in St. Martin Parish successfully applied for marriage licenses, marking an end to more than a day of denials since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down same-sex marriage bans nationwide.
“I can’t believe we’re actually holding it. It’s awesome,” 24-year-old Melissa Beckham said as she and her partner of five years, 27-year-old Chelsea Hughes, posed outside the Lafayette Parish Courthouse with their marriage certificate.
“It is very surreal. It is something we have been waiting for for a long time,” Hughes said.
Although Lea Cedotal, 40, celebrated a commitment ceremony with her partner 15 years ago, receiving an official marriage license in Lafayette Parish on Monday was “a huge, huge relief,” she said after obtaining the marriage license for herself and her future wife.
“We have a daughter — a 3-year-old daughter — and now she gets to have the same rights as every other child,” Cedotal said.
Cedotal said she didn’t try to get a marriage license on Friday, when the U.S. Supreme Court first handed down its ruling.
“I wasn’t wasting my time. I’ve been living in this state for 40 years,” she said.
On Monday, however, she called the clerk’s office every hour on the hour to find out if and when it would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and arrived within 45 minutes of the news.
“No more burden at all. Now I can take care of my family like I was meant to,” Cedotal said.
Catherine Cox, 64, and Mary Speyrer, 58, left the courthouse about 3 p.m. with a completed marriage certificate in hand.
Fifteenth Judicial District Judge Thomas Duplantier had just married the two women, who were the first to apply for a same-sex marriage license in Lafayette Parish and the first same-sex couple to be legally married here.
The couple of 32 years declined interviews with the swarm of newspaper and TV reporters staking out the courthouse Monday afternoon, but they left their wedding all smiles.
Although St. Landry, St. Mary, Vermilion and Evangeline parishes began accepting same-sex marriage applications Monday afternoon, no gay or lesbian couples had applied there by closing time, according to deputy clerks in each parish.
Acadia Parish is planning to accept same-sex marriage applications once its software is upgraded to match the new forms, which now label each marriage participant as either “BRIDE/SPOUSE” or “GROOM/SPOUSE,” Deputy Clerk Blane Faulk said.
Despite Friday’s federal ruling striking down same-sex marriage bans nationwide, the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association on Monday again advised offices statewide, via email, to wait for a U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on cases related to the issue before moving forward with issuing the marriage licenses.
By 1 p.m. Monday, however, the association withdrew its advice. Same-sex couples with marriage in their hearts began trickling into parish courthouses statewide.
Jefferson Parish on Monday morning became the first in Louisiana to issue a marriage-license application to a same-sex couple: two women who work for that parish’s Clerk of Court’s Office.
In Lafayette, Josh Clark, 36, and Chase Bourgeois, 29, were third to arrive within an hour of Clerk of Court Louis Perret announcing at 1:30 p.m. that his office would accept applications from same-sex couples.
Clark and Bourgeois recently celebrated their five-year union in Antigua — where same-sex marriage is still illegal — but have a Friday ceremony planned for family and friends.
“Now it’s real,” Bourgeois said.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.