As the doors to the Lubbock County Clerk's office opened, one couple waited patiently for a piece of paper they say they have known the meaning of for some time. Regardless of your sexual orientation, getting a marriage license is now the same process for everyone, as of Monday, July 6. Lubbock County Clerk Kelly Pinion said many were upset they could not get their licenses the day of the Supreme Court decision on June 26th, but she stands by her decision to wait, gather the facts and get legal counsel.
"Our office is now in compliance with the judicial decision that we treat all of our customers the same," Pinion said. "With anything, any change we do in our office, regardless of what the topic or the subject, I need to make sure I'm putting the best foot forward and making the right progress," Pinion said. "It wasn't simply a piece of paper, it was programming in the system. Every document is permanent, you can't just black out or white out on a permanent document and go back and change it later. It will be that way forever."
Connie Garcia and Crystal Stodghill were at the courthouse bright and early Monday morning. They were the first gay couple to get a marriage license.
"I kind of squealed," Stodghill said. Like for the past few days I've been squealing 'We're going to do this!' And look! We're not bursting into flames!"
"It's pretty special, it's not something that we thought would happen anytime soon or if at all in our lifetimes," Garcia said. "Knowing that we don't have to wait anymore, I told her her 'Let's hurry up and do it before they change their mind!' It lets people know it's okay. It's okay now!"
As for how many other same-sex couples picked up their licenses on Monday morning, the office staff said they are not counting.
"It's an equal rights issue, we're treating everybody equally," Pinion said. "Just as we didn't keep track of what races or what religion were of the people that came in, we're not going to be keeping track of their gender either."
Garcia and Stodghill said they are now planning for their upcoming wedding on July 14.
"For all of the people who fought for us, thank you so much for putting everything out there and letting us do this," Stodghill said, tearing up.
Two Lubbock County Justices of the Peace have responded to the supreme court decision, related to their authority to perform weddings.
Precinct 3 JP Aurora Chaides Hernandez released a statement saying: "1. Rule of Law in the United States developed around the belief that a primary purpose of the Rule of Law is the protection of certain basic rights including the fulfillment of the promises of freedom, justice, and equality set forth in out nations' founding documents. Above the main entrance to the Supreme Court Building are the engraved words, 'Equal Justice Under Law.'
2. The courts play an integral role in maintaining the Rule of Law.
3. Although there are those who would argue that the June 26, 2015 U.S,. Supreme Court ruling which stated that- states cannot ban same-sex marriage- burdens religious conduct, the fact is, that the U.S. Supreme Court has the final say in constitutional interpretation.
4. As a judge who has raised my right hand and has solemnly sworn to faithfully execute the duties of my office and, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States, I understand and agree that even religious believers are governed by the rule of law.
5. Futhermore, as an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Texas I also took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States.
6. As such and for those reasons, I will continue to perform wedding ceremonies as I have always done for the past 21 years."
Precinct 1 JP Jim Hansen released a statement saying: "June 26, 2015, My understanding of the Supreme Court decision regarding same sex marriage is that I have two options. I can either perform all weddings, including same sex marriages, or I can no longer perform any weddings. The statutes say a Justice of the Peace may perform marriages, it does not say shall. For personal religious reasons, I have decided to no longer perform wedding ceremonies effective immediately. Upon announcing this decision, I also wish to share that I have no anger, fear, or hatred toward any person or party. I am simply guaranteed my religious rights as guaranteed under the United States Constitution.
God Bless America, Judge Jim Hansen, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1."
JP Jim Dulin and JP Ann-Marie Carruth were out of town and unavailable for comment.
With the addition of Lubbock County, 18 counties in our area are now issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Five others are still waiting for updated forms and/or software.
Garza County's clerk was not in today. Workers in his office were unable to tell us whether software had been updated. The Motley County Clerk had "no comment" to our question on whether the county is issuing licenses to same-sex couples.
Bailey County - Waiting for updated forms
Borden County - Issuing
Briscoe County - Issuing
Castro County - Issuing
Cochran County - Issuing
Cottle County - Issuing
Crosby County - Issuing
Dawson County - Waiting for updated forms
Dickens County - Issuing
Floyd County - Issuing
Gaines County - Issuing
Garza County - Unknown as of July 6 (clerk not in today). Was previously waiting for software update
Hale County - Issuing
Hall County - Issuing
Hockley County - Issuing
Kent County - Issuing
Lamb County - Waiting for software update
Lubbock County - Issuing
Lynn County - Issuing
Motley County - "No comment"
Parmer County - Issuing
Scurry County - Issuing
Swisher County - Waiting for updated forms
Terry County - Waiting for updated forms
Yoakum County - Issuing
Same-sex marriage was legalized in our New Mexico counties in December 2013.