Locals marry under new rules among first to get wed
Pastor Nansi Hawkins, of Emmanuel United Church of Christ, blesses the wedding rings for Jeanne Phelan and Teresa Skiba of Oconomowoc and Jim and Alex Langreder of Delafield, at the Waukesha County Court House Monday, June 9, 2014. Photo by: Todd Ponath
Love is in the air in Wisconsin.
The freedom to marry was granted to members in same sex-relationships across the state last week after a federal judge ruled Wisconsin's ban was unconstitutional.
That makes 19 states, including the District of Columbia, that have legalized same-gender marriages, with legal challenges in the 31 other states.
For Delafield resident Jim Langreder, Friday, June 6, was a day unfolding like any other day, when it suddenly took a life-altering turn.
"Our kids had a play date, and I was checking my phone and saw something posted on Facebook (about the ruling)," he said. "I immediately texted my partner, Alex, and all our friends. Everyone was overjoyed."
"I thought, sad to say, that Wisconsin would be one of the last (to allow same-sex marriages)," Langreder admitted.
He and Alex have been in a committed relationship since 2002 and are raising two children together. They held a commitment ceremony on their five-year anniversary.
"Our commitment ceremony was the real deal; it was just missing the legal papers," he explained.
"For us, it's always been about protecting the children. We have wills, but all that is not ironclad when that child is not your partner's," Langreder said. In Wisconsin, gay couples cannot adopt children. In the case of this family, the couple's son is legally Jim's child, their daughter is Alex's.
"If we're allowed to get married, that takes care of that," he added.
Although surprised by the ruling, Jim said he knew it was just a matter of time.
"I've always felt that one day it would eventually happen, and if we just kept on living our lives, like all families do, it would happen. We just had to be patient and allow people's minds and hearts to open," he said.
The couple headed to the Waukesha County Courthouse on Monday afternoon to get their license. The Rev. Nansi Hawkins of Emanuel United Church of Christ in Dousman married them in front of the courthouse Monday. They had planned to wed at the church this weekend, because there is generally a five-day waiting period between receiving the license and the wedding, but since that requirement was waived, they married the same day.
Also on their way to the courthouse Monday for a marriage license were Oconomowoc residents Jeanne Phelan and Terrry Skiba, who have been together for 19 years.
"I did think this day would come, just not under this governor," Phelan said.
"It's a relief," she said of the ruling.
"It takes away the social stigma and the political stigma that it's not OK to be me. We don't have to be second-class citizens any more," Phelan added.
The women were the first to have a domestic partnership recognized by the county; Jim and Alex Langreder were second. The couples thought it was only fitting to go for their marriage licenses together.
"We thought that would be cool," Phelan said.
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