12 marriage licenses granted to gay couples in Porter County one day after ruling
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent June 26, 2014 12:05PM
Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper, center, weds Aaron Lewis and Nathan Peek Thursday at the Porter County Courthouse in Valparaiso. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 28, 2014 6:19AM
VALPARAISO — Aaron Lewis and Nathan Peek sat in the rotunda of the Porter County Courthouse on Thursday morning holding hands.
The Portage couple were waiting to fill out a marriage license and get married.
“We love each other,” Peek said. “It’s just that simple.”
On Thursday, a day after a federal judge overturned Indiana’s ban on gay marriage, the county clerk’s records division issued 12 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, with nine of them marrying at the courthouse.
Expecting an appeal of the judge’s ruling and the resulting stay on its implementation, Lewis and Peek, who had wed in a civil ceremony in Portage in November, said they felt a sense of urgency to legalize their arrangement.
Lewis, 24, and Peek, 22, have been together for about 18 months. Lewis is a clerk in the bakery at the Meijer store in Portage, and Peek works there in the electronics department. They hope to have children some day, after Lewis achieves his goal of becoming an English professor.
They admitted they’re lucky to wed early in their adult lives, unlike older couples who have waited for years in Indiana to be afforded the same legal rights as other couples.
“It had to have been unimaginably tough,” Peek said of such couples. “Honestly, it’s just a shame that it’s taken this long.”
They filled out a marriage license on the computer in the records office — it still lists couples as husband and wife because the form hasn’t been updated — and then signed the documents.
“Good day, good day,” Lewis said as he tried to control his emotions. “I’m hyper, but I’m breathing. I never thought the day would come.”
They congratulated other couples going through the same process, and then headed to Porter County Circuit Judge Mary Harper’s courtroom. They held hands and faced one another, as so many couples have before them, as Harper conducted the brief ceremony. There were a few tears, too.
“I now pronounce you lawfully married in the state of Indiana,” she said as she concluded the ceremony and the two embraced.
Harper said it was happenstance that she was in her office at all Thursday. She had training in the afternoon and was going to take the morning off.
“I thought I better not because a federal judge decided there are rights to be protected,” she said.
She didn’t officiate any weddings on Wednesday. Lewis and Peek’s marriage was her second on Thursday. The first couple, Harper said, had been together 25 years.
The work Harper does in her courtroom affords many people their constitutional rights, including criminals, she said, and a federal judge determined that Indiana’s law against gay marriage was unconstitutional.
“I think I can afford people their constitutional rights with respect and dignity and perform the ceremony that so many have waited so long to enjoy,” Harper said before welcoming another couple into her courtroom. “If I can protect the rights of bad people, I can protect the rights of good people.”