Douglas County same-sex couples celebrate; ‘legally, lawfully married, spouses for life’

Roeland Park residents Angie Crowley, left, and Vicki Crowley turn to each other after being married by Judge Kay Huff, back, on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 in the Division III courtroom at the Douglas County Courthouse. Also pictured is Sheena Grigsby, daughter of Vicki.

Douglas County issued its first same-sex marriage licenses Thursday, and by day’s end multiple couples were legally wed.

After long being denied the right, many of the couples seemed to take each step of the process in disbelief, including Angie Crowley and Vicki Buchanan, the first same-sex couple to have a Douglas County-issued marriage license in hand.

The women filled out their application, and presiding Judge Robert Fairchild waived the three-day waiting period to hand over a license.

“Is it real?” Crowley said. “Is somebody going to come in here and stop it just because they can?”

Shortly, a few doors down, Judge Kay Huff’s assistant quickly informed them the judge could perform their wedding ceremony at 5 p.m.

“It’s really going to happen?” Buchanan said, in tears. “And there’s no one that can stop this now?”

No one did, and at 5:10 p.m. they walked away from the courthouse a married couple.

The Douglas County District Court clerk’s office filed 15 same-sex marriage applications Thursday and issued licenses to seven of those couples.

Three married at the courthouse at 5 p.m. Several others planned ceremonies elsewhere that day.

All seven couples who requested them were granted expedited licenses by Fairchild; the others will be able to pick up their licenses Monday, according to the clerk’s office. Two same-sex couples previously applied for marriage licenses in Douglas County, bringing total applications here to 17.

The clerk’s office had new forms ready earlier in the week and deployed them Thursday.

Couples filled out applications bearing lines for “Party A” and “Party B” instead of the previous “man” and “woman.”

Court staff approached business as usual — anyone may request a waiting period waiver, and any judge can agree to perform a ceremony after hours on short notice — though the pairs they helped were anything but usual in Kansas.

Among them:

Linette McJunkin and Kay Maendele of Lawrence, together almost 17 years. They planned to take their license straight from the courthouse back to their office, where an officiant and friends were waiting.

“This is who I’m supposed to be with,” McJunkin said. “This is the last piece of the puzzle.”

Maendele added: “And it’d just be nice to have the rights everybody else does.”

Angela and Jennifer Schaefer of Gardner, together nine years. Judge Fairchild married them Thursday.

Jennifer was diagnosed with cancer when she was pregnant with their son, now 10 months old, and had her last treatment in August. She said even though she beat cancer, it was a reminder that something could happen “in the blink of an eye.” They wanted to ensure Angela could get the same legal rights to their son.

Especially after the past couple years, Angela said.

“If there’s any couple that should be categorized as being in a true marriage, it’s us.”

Shannon Feldt and Susan McSpadden of Merriam, together four years and acquainted for 10.

They had a wedding — with dresses, a reception and everything — Nov. 10, 2012, at Pilgrim Chapel in Kansas City, Mo. They got their license to marry “for real” Thursday and planned to have the same minister perform a ceremony with close friends later that day back in Kansas City.

“We could have gotten married in another state, but we thought it would be nice to be married in the state we live in,” Feldt said. “We’ve been holding out.”

Quinta Avance and Tessy Best of Topeka, who said they’d been “burned” in October when they applied for marriage in Johnson County but the Kansas Supreme Court stay was put in place during their three-day waiting period.

Moments before their wedding early Thursday evening in Judge Sally Pokorny’s courtroom, Avance said she was still anxious another barrier would stop them from their vows.

“I really didn’t think this was ever going to happen in Kansas, at least not in our lifetimes,” she said.

After the ceremony, Avance said their circle viewed them as family, but everyone else didn’t.

“Not anymore,” Best said, finishing her new wife’s sentence.

No one was in line when the Douglas County court clerk’s office opened at 8 a.m.

Crowley and Buchanan, of Roeland Park, and one other couple, two Leawood men who declined to share their names, arrived just before 8:40 a.m. after zooming in from Johnson County.

Both had applied to marry in Johnson County. But when they showed up there first thing Thursday morning, they were denied licenses.

They obtained them easily in Douglas County, where Crowley and Buchanan had theirs processed moments before the men.

Buchanan and Crowley both drive big-rigs for Swift Transportation, where they met. They’ve been together seven years.

Their friend Linda Hutchison came in after work to be one of their witnesses Thursday afternoon. Buchanan’s daughter Sheena Grigsby, along with her husband and two children, drove almost four hours to be the second witness.

After all the legal back-and-forth, Grigsby didn’t expect to wake up Thursday and have gay marriage actually be legal.

“It’s been hard to watch your mom go through life not being able to marry the person she’s in love with,” Grigsby said. “I’ve never seen two people more in love, and with that love how much they respect one another.”

The ceremony was emotional and joyful for the small wedding party in Division 3.

Buchanan wept again and gripped Crowley’s hand as Judge Huff completed their ceremony on a legally optimistic note.

“By the authority vested in me,” Huff said, “I now pronounce you married — legally, lawfully married, spouses for life.”