Boone County begins issuing marriage licenses for gay couples

Subtle changes were made to marriage applications in anticipation on the Supreme Court’s decision.
Deborah Redding and Julie Rosenfeld speak to reporters Friday at a conference held to celebrate the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage. Redding and Rosenfield were one of three same-sex couples at the conference along with many other Columbia community members.

Columbia residents Sarah Perry and Beth Perrin were the first same-sex couple to be married in Boone County Friday afternoon. The two women met at church and have been together for 17 years.

“(Sarah) started coming (to church) and we started as friends for a couple years, then we decided, ‘huh’ we like each other,’” Perrin said.

Perry and Perrin were one of four couples who received their marriage license Friday morning after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in a 5-4 decision. A press conference was also hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri just steps from the courthouse at the Roger B. Wilson Boone County Center at noon.

“The Obergefell vs. Hodges decision is going to go down as one of the great civil rights decisions by the United States Supreme Court,”said Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, to kick off the conference. “Today, we are a step closer to the American ideal of justice for all than we were yesterday. And that’s something our country can be very proud of.”

Three same-sex couples, Deborah Lydia Redding and Julie Rosenfeld; Larry Kanter and Carl Morris; and Diane Booth and Jeanne Sebaugh, were present at the press conference. along with other Columbia community members.

“My story is easy,” Booth said at the open mic. “I’ve been in a same-sex relationship for 24 years and I’ve been married since October of 2013, when we had to elope in Iowa.”

She said it would have been much better if they didn’t have to leave behind their families and friends to get married. It’s different now, but she took a minute to address another issue:

“The Employment Non-Discrimination Act needs to be passed on a federal level,” she said. “Because right now, you have no protection unless you work for an employer who is very gay friendly and unless you work for the wonderful organizations here in Boone County, like the university, the city, the county. Because you can be fired.”

In April, Webber introduced House Bill 407 to the Missouri House Civil and Criminal Proceeding Committee, which would protect individuals against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The bill currently has no future hearings scheduled and already has been rejected five times by the Missouri House. Twenty states already have employment nondiscrimination policies that cover sexual orientation in place.

“Here in Missouri, people can still be fired for their sexual orientation,” Webber said. “Newly-married couples, gay couples can be denied housing and as a sponsor of the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act for the last seven years, we are incredibly happy for today’s victory. But we are not satisfied until complete, legal equality has been achieved in the state of Missouri. So this is not the end.”

Boone County issues about 1200 marriage licenses in a year, Boone County Recorder of Deeds Nora Dietzel said. She anticipates that number to go up. She notified the four couples who had already applied for their marriage license in advance of the decision that she could now legally issue their license.

In anticipation for the Supreme Court’s decision, the Recorder of Deeds office had minor software changes made to their applications several months ago, Dietzel said. These changes include replacing ‘bride’ and ‘groom’ designation on the application with ‘first party’ and ‘second party,’ and adding gender designation for either party.

“The couples’ emotions and joy were very easy to catch on to,” she said. “We’re pleased that we can now offer these services to all of our Boone County citizens.”

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