Amy Hackett and her partner of 23 years, Elizabeth Mouton, were among dozens of Acadiana couples on Friday denied marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
They were told there would be a 25-day waiting period, a disappointment but one they said they were prepared to live with.
But while they celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision, their joy wasn’t shared by some who strongly disagreed with the ruling.
Bishop Michael Jarrell, of the Lafayette Diocese, called the decision “irreconcilable with the nature and definition of marriage as established by Divine Law” and suggested public officials and others should refuse to accept its legitimacy.
“I realize that this ruling will create conscience problems for many Catholics, especially those in public office,” Jarrell wrote. “In some cases, civil disobedience may be a proper response.”
Hackett and Mouton, though, were moving forward with their plans to obtain a marriage license as soon as possible. Their two teen daughters are excited to help plan their parents’ wedding.
The couple was told Friday there would be a 25-day waiting period before the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association would allow its clerks to issue the licenses — making Louisiana and Mississippi the only two states to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses following the federal ruling.
“Twenty-five days isn’t that much longer in the scheme of things,” Hackett said. “We remain hopeful that in 25 days, we’ll be back there to get a marriage license.”
Like many same-sex couples who sought rights in one of the 36 states that legalized gay marriage prior to Friday’s federal ruling, Hackett and Mouton lived in Massachusetts, Hackett’s home state, to ensure Mouton’s parental rights after their daughters were born.
They didn’t consider marrying there when same-sex marriage was legalized there in 2004 — because previously their union wouldn’t be recognized in Louisiana, Hackett said.
Like Hackett and Mouton, Lafayette couple Rick Rowan and Andre Guillory were restricted by the state’s marriage ban and, after more than a year of engagement, had planned a commitment ceremony to share their union with family and friends.
“We had always expected to do a commitment ceremony because honestly, we didn’t have hope that it would happen, and we didn’t have faith it would happen in Louisiana because of our governor,” Rowan said.
While the same words of love, unity and commitment will be spoken when he and Guillory do wed, those words will now hold the weight of the law, he said.
“Now, I won’t have that voice in the back of my head that says, ‘But, it’s not legal,’ ” he said as he and Guillory stood in downtown Lafayette in front of the gelato shop where they’re both employed.
As the couple talked together about what the Supreme Court’s ruling meant, Rowan periodically rubbed his arms that were prickled with goosebumps.
“Today, I’m really proud as an American and someone who loves someone,” he said.
While couples lined up for courthouse ceremonies in other states, Rowan said he thinks perhaps many Louisiana couples either hadn’t planned on the court to rule on Friday or, as in his and Guillory’s case, might want to wait for a ceremony.
“We had not planned for today’s victory,” Rowan said. “I think a lot of people waiting on this decision may not have expected it, so they’re not lining up. We want to plan our day.”
Rowan held out his arms.
“Look,” he said. “I’m still getting goosebumps.”
Growing up in Carencro, equality advocate Ted Richard didn’t think he would see the day when he’d have the option to marry. But he’s been encouraged by the work of groups like Equality Louisiana in recent years.
“There have been a lot of groups working toward marriage equality,” said Richard, who is the past president of Acadiana PRIDE.
Richard, 52 and an early retiree, volunteers his time both individually and with the group to advocate on behalf of equality rights. He said he’s careful not to use the phrase “same-sex marriage” but rather the phrase “marriage equality.”
“I just want to be treated the same as everyone else,” Richard said. “What this ruling says is: ‘I am equal to each and every other American who lives in this country. I am equal.’ ”
But despite the ruling, roadblocks remain in place in Louisiana, where Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s Office advised clerks not to immediately issue licenses to same-sex couples, saying in a Friday statement it won’t instruct clerks of courts to issue the licenses until the U.S. Supreme Court issues “a mandate or order making (the) decision final and effective.”
In Lafayette, Bishop Jarrell issued a statement urging Catholic parishioners to stay away from same-sex marriage ceremonies. He criticized the court’s ruling and reiterated a prohibition on the performance of same-sex marriages at any Catholic facility or property.
“Let me state very plainly that no human court has the authority to change what God has written into the law of creation,” Jarrell wrote.
At the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, students who were interviewed offered different views of the court’s decision.
Bradley Jouty, an officer with anti-abortion group UL Lafayette Students for Life and an active member of Ragin’ Cajun Catholics, said the court got marriage and the Constitution wrong just as it got abortion and the Constitution in Roe v. Wade.
“Five unelected judges do not have the power to change the truth about marriage or the truth about the Constitution,” Jouty said.
Paige LaCombe, president of UL-Lafayette equality advocacy group GLASS — or Giving Love, Acceptance, Safety and Support — held the opposite view.
“It is extremely refreshing to have our government support the equal rights of all of its citizens, regardless of their individual differences,” LaCombe said. “In this great nation, I’ve never felt more free.”
Louisiana was one of 14 states in which a ban on same-sex marriages remained in effect before the Supreme Court’s ruling, although the issue had been subject to legal challenges.
A case involving a same-sex Lafayette couple who married in California in 2008 is on appeal with the state’s highest court, which opted to put the matter on hold pending the federal ruling.
Through the litigation, Angela Costanza and Chasity Brewer sought not only to have the same-sex marriage ban declared unconstitutional and to have their marriage recognized in Louisiana but for Costanza to be legally recognized as a parent to Brewer’s biological son.
Although 15th Judicial District Judge Edward Rubin in October ruled in favor of the couple’s requests — marking the only time a Louisiana judge has struck down the ban — his ruling was suspended pending the state’s appeal.
Friday’s federal ruling means the state Supreme Court doesn’t have to take up the marriage aspect of the couple’s suit, but in doing so, it could prevent future discrimination against same-sex couples in the state, said Lafayette attorney Josh Guillory, who, along with LSU Law Center professor Paul Baier, represents the couple in the case.
“I would hope they take a stand and affirm Judge Rubin’s ruling based on the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, and that way, it helps prevent legislators from writing laws that would discriminate in other areas,” Guillory said.
Yet the court will have to either affirm or deny Rubin’s ruling granting the couple adoption rights, an issue that — along with civil matters like secessions and inheritances — could present future barriers for same-sex couples seeking total equality in marriage rights.
“A lot of times, some people may say this is the end of the argument for marriage equality, but it’s really only the beginning,” Guillory said. There are still so many other areas where we need to make sure the laws are enforced equally.”
Advocate writer Holly Duchmann contributed to this article.