Ronald Bevacqua and Jenny Lynn Lundy are getting married on Friday in the mountains north of Greenville. They applied for a marriage license Wednesday and will go back Thursday to pick it up.
Lindsey Crumbley and Halley Page want to get married in the mountains, too. And, even though they were denied a marriage license just after Bevacqua and Lundy’s was approved, they are hopeful that by the time their wedding date comes around — 10.15.15 — they’ll be able to be legally married in South Carolina.
That sort of optimism was the overall feeling at Greenville County Probate Court during the hour-long We Do event sponsored by the Campaign for Southern Equality, a national organization formed to fight for marriage equality.
Five gay couples applied for marriage licenses, and five were denied.
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“In South Carolina, we’re getting closer and closer and closer to the day when we’ll go to the counter and they’ll say yes,” said the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality.
The group was heartened by Monday’s decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that Virginia’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. South Carolina is also in the 4th Circuit.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has said he intends to defend South Carolina’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Gov. Nikki Haley said she supports Wilson’s decision.
On Wednesday S.C. Equality announced a petition drive to encourage Wilson to change his mind. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Hooper announced on Monday he wouldn’t defend North Carolina’s ban.
“Instead of spending money on our state’s crumbling infrastructure or improving education and access to health care in our state, Attorney General Wilson plans to waste our tax dollars defending a ban that will ultimately be struck down,” said Ryan Wilson, S.C. Equality executive director.
Amendment One to the South Carolina Constitution was passed by voters in 2006. It banned same-sex marriage and civil unions.
Two lawsuits are pending in South Carolina, one involving a woman who wants to divorce the partner she considers her common law wife and another involving a highway patrol officer and her wife who are suing to have the state recognize their marriage, which was performed in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Census records estimate there are 656 same-sex couples in Greenville County and 7,214 in South Carolina. A 2013 poll found 39 percent of South Carolina residents support gay marriage, compared to 21 percent in 2011.
“This is history we’re in the middle of, history we’re helping to write,” said Beach-Ferrara.
Federal courts in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, Texas and Kentucky have also ruled that bans on same-sex marriage are against the constitution.
In Greenville on Wednesday, about 100 people waited outside the Probate Court office as the couples went inside. As each couple came out, the group cheered and clapped.
Lindsey Simerly, the campaign manager for the We Do campaign, accompanied the couples inside and made sure they had their driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and completed applications.
“You never know when they might say yes,” she said, and smiled. Then she reminded each couple that a whole community of people supported them.
The last time Ivy Hill and Misha Gibson applied, a woman in front of them quoted Bible verses at them. This time there were no confrontations. Bevacqua and Lundy watched quietly with Lundy’s two children as the entourage of couples, media and filmmakers trouped in. Another couple was there to file adoption papers.
After their application was denied, Gibson told the clerk she had been kind and Gibson hoped the clerk would be there when they came back and were approved.
One by one the couples affirmed their love for each other at the window as the clerk told them no.
As the last two couples went inside, the group sang, “We are not backing down. Love won’t be denied.”
Singing along was Sonja Crumbley, Lindsey Crumbley’s mother. She came from Lexington, North Carolina, about an hour north of Charlotte, to watch her daughter apply for a marriage license.
“They just got engaged last weekend,” she said.
Mrs. Crumbley said her daughter told her and her husband she was a lesbian when she was in middle school.
“We kind of expected it,” she said. And they’ve been supportive ever since.
Lindsey Crumbley and Halley Page met through the website OK Cupid. Crumbley was living in Asheville; Page in Greenville.
Page drove 60 miles just about every day, and then got up at 4 a.m. to work as a cook at Rolling Green Village in Greenville.
When they realized it was serious, Crumbley moved to Greenville.
“I was scared,” Crumbley said. “Asheville is so open and affirming, I didn’t know if I would find a community.”
As she said that, she nodded toward Page and said, “This is my home.”
That’s why they want to get married in South Carolina, Crumbley said. They know they could go elsewhere — 19 states allow same-sex marriage — but Page grew up in South Carolina.
“We’ll come back as often as we need to,” Page said.
And Mrs. Crumbley expects to be there, just as she was Wednesday with her iPhone out, recording the event, tears in her eyes.
“I have such a hodgepodge of emotions,” she said afterward. “They love each other and they shouldn’t be treated any different. They should have the rights that my husband and I had.”