April D. Miller is a professor at Morehead State University.
In the lead-up to the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality, my partner Karen and I waited with anticipation. We watched hopefully as the momentum built leading up to the decision this June, a part of me wondering if it would ever happen. We live in a rural part of eastern Kentucky after all, one of the states involved in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. I remember dreaming of what it would be like to walk into our clerk’s office in Rowan County, Ky., and be handed the piece of paper that would legalize our love and protect our family. But when we went to our county courthouse on the morning of June 30 to apply for a marriage license, we left without one. Clerk Kim Davis denied us our fundamental right to marry.
I found it incredible that after the wait for this decision someone who was opposed to it would block my right to lawfully obtain a marriage license. We were astounded that an elected official was not performing her job, regardless of the reason. Her decision to deny all licenses in response to the ruling was preposterous.
We joined the protest outside the courthouse, started making calls to our elected officials, and partnered with the ACLU of Kentucky. On July 2, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of us and three other couples against the county clerk for denying marriage licenses and for not allowing her employees to issue them either. She was sent to jail last week and was released Tuesday.
The past few days have been incredibly intense and emotional as the nation joined in the conversation. We never imagined our story would get this much attention. We never wanted Davis to go to jail, and we never asked her to change her mind about same-sex marriage. We just wanted to be able to get our marriage license like every other couple in the country. We’re so grateful that we were finally able to obtain our license and get married on Sept. 4, and we hope no other loving couple has to face the humiliation of being turned away like we were.
Karen and I met 18 years ago when we both lived in Hattiesburg, Miss. We worked together and became great friends. Several years later, we realized our friendship was becoming something more, and our closeness blossomed into a relationship and true love. We moved in together in Texas with our daughter as a family in 2004. In 2006 we moved to Morehead, Ky. In December 2014, Karen and I went on the trip of a lifetime to Australia for three weeks. As a part of our adventure, we climbed up the outside of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is there we vowed to get married.
Our family consists of us, our 21-year-old daughter Jessica, an 11-year old short-hair cat Mo, and a 3-year old Havanese dog Molly. We love to go to movies, travel, and eat out. In other words, we’re a normal family just like the millions of others across our nation.
Rowan County is our community. This is where we have lived, worked, played, volunteered, voted, and paid our taxes over the last nine years. We did not get married out of state in previous years because we knew it would not be recognized as soon as we entered our state. Now, with our marriage license finally in-hand, we look forward to celebrating soon.