Greg Wright and Ron Gebhardtsbauer first exchanged vows on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the Millennium March on Washington.
That was on Saturday, April 29, 2000. Fourteen years and two other wedding ceremonies later, the couple is married in Pennsylvania after a federal judge struck down its same-sex marriage ban last month.
“Back then, I could never imagine in my wildest dreams actually being married,” Wright said. “It was a political thing, but it did have some deeper layers to it.”
Wright, owner of UpWright Chi, and Gebhardtsbauer, an actuarial science professor, received a Maryland marriage license last November, anticipating Pennsylvania “would never come around.”
As a result of the judge’s decision, Pennsylvania must accept their out-of-state license.
“The main effect of our court victory is that same-sex couples can now apply for marriage licenses, or have their licenses recognized,” Molly Tack-Hooper, Staff Attorney at the Pennsylvania ACLU, said. “Couples will also have an easier time with divorce because the government previously wouldn’t recognize dissolving relationships.”
After the Supreme Court ruled the Federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional last year, state marriage bans have been lifted across the country.
Pennsylvania is now one of 20 states allowing marriage equality. Governor Tom Corbett chose not to appeal the court’s decision.
Many LGBTA students at Penn State have been celebrating the court victory, Allison Subaisic, Director of the LGBTA Student Resource Center, said.
Subaisic said a group of students from the LGBTA Center drove down to Harrisburg the day of the decision to celebrate.
“While not every student is rushing out to get married, when it comes time for them to have a partner and be interested in, they will have the same rights as other people,” Subaisic said. “Students are happy to see the place they go to school being accepting on this issue. It means a lot to them because they will feel more welcomed in the state of Pennsylvania.”
With the marriage ban overturned, Tack-Hooper said the ACLU will start pushing for state-wide protection against discrimination in businesses and housing.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act will prevent members of the LGBT community from being excluded from hiring on the basis of their sexual orientation.
As for Gebhardtsbauer, the court’s decision “goes beyond marriage.“ He said he no longer feels like a second-class citizen of the United States.
“When I first acknowledged that I was gay way back in my twenties, I all of a sudden felt like no one was going to listen to me, or care about what I say or think. It's been with me for 40 years. And all of a sudden, when I went to vote, I felt all that stuff falling away.”
The couple plans on holding a celebration of marriage equality in their backyard this summer. The minister from their church will be present for couples wishing to renew their vows.
Meghan Garrity can be reached at email@example.com or (814) 865-1828. Follow her on Twitter at @meg_garrity.