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By Sandi Smith
Our emotions soared with joyous love boosted by the strength of our Community, who showed up in solidarity. We have experienced a temporary setback, for sure, but temporary it will be. Days, weeks or months from now, those 323 marriages performed yesterday in Michigan will be recognized by our State.
74 couples received marriage licenses in Washtenaw County. I wish to thank the many people who came together to make that happen. Our County Clerk, Larry Kestenbaum, ready with gender neutral applications, who was willing and eager to issue the licenses; Larry’s staff, who so graciously gave up their Saturdays to process the applications, administer oaths and produce licenses; Ed Golembiewski, the Director of Elections, who, amongst many other things, managed the front of the line and kept the flow of applicants going; the two Sheriff deputies on hand to make sure that nobody interfered with the process; and the Facilities Manager Skip, who opened the doors for us, but perhaps more significantly, will handle the cleaning up after dozens of weddings; County Administrator Verna McDaniel and Sheriff Jerry Clayton who did not hesitate to provide the necessary resources to make this happen.
Washtenaw County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum was supported by the Board of Commissioners in his decision to open on Saturday. Special thanks to Andy LaBarre who spent time on the phone Friday night helping to iron out logistics. Board County Chair, Yousef Rabhi, texted in his support while home sick in bed. LaBarre and his fellow commissioners, Conan Smith & Felicia Brabac were present in the Clerk’s office on Saturday. Other elected officials joined in, including Ann Arbor City Mayor John Hieftje, Councilmembers Chris Taylor, Sabra Briere & Chuck Warpehoski, State Representatives Jeff Irwin and Adam Zemke, as did wife of U. S. Representative John Dingell and candidate for Congress, Debbie Dingell. Washtenaw Circuit Court Judge Carol Kuhnke and Federal District Court Judge Judy Levy were there not only in support, but also performed marriages.
So many clergy to thank, I couldn’t possibly name them all, but certainly I have to call out Deborah Dean-Ware, pastor of the Church of the Good Shepherd who organized the clergy in the impromptu chapel in the basement of the Courthouse. Thanks also to Downtown Development Authority Director, Susan Pollay who showed up with dozens of roses; local businesses added to the festivities–the People’s Food Co-op delivering hot coffee to those waiting in line: thank you Kevin Sharp; Lily’s Garden sent buckets of flowers; Sweet Heather Anne’s gave free wedding cupcakes; the violin player serenaded the waiting crowd.
A big thank you to Beth Patton and Jonnie Terry, who became our poster children yesterday as the first same-sex couple to be married in Washtenaw. Congratulations! With their high profile wedding, Jonnie fears repercussions at her employment, as it is still legal to fire someone for being gay in Michigan.
Our straight allies and family members showed up in great numbers to bear witness to the day’s events. Thank you!
We wouldn’t even be in this place if it had not been for THE moms, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse. Their personal sacrifice for the greater good is to be lauded and will forever be enshrined in our laws as Deboer v Snyder. Kudos to their legal team and all the folks at the Michigan Marriage Challenge. Their job is far from over and we cannot forget to continue to support them.
I cannot finish without thanking Mr. Jim Toy, without his many years of activism leading us up to this moment, we couldn’t even have dreamt of this day.
I am sure there are some people that I have missed. Thank you all for being part of a strong and caring community that showed up in solidarity and with loving support.
Sandi Smith, President Jim Toy Community Center, Ann Arbor