The 12th time’s the charm – after 11 years, local activists finally married at RVA court house
The group had gathered every year for more than a decade, usually right around or on Valentine’s Day, to try and get same-sex couples legally married. And every year, their requests were denied. But not this year.
At around 11 AM, Rev. Dr. Robin Gorsline (top image right) and his (now legal) husband Dr. Jonathan Lebolt (top image left) finally received their Virginia marriage license.
“We come here today, traversing a well warn path, with friends who show up for love and against fear, and we know about that contest in our lives,” said Gorsline before the crowd of about 40 people on the steps of Richmond’s John Marshall court house.
The couple had been friends for six years before they started dating. They moved from NYC to Richmond together, and spent many a cold February day on these court house steps together in pursuit of the document they now held in their hand.
“Today, my darling, my hope, my joy, my love, today is a triumph over all that,” said Gorsline. “And so this marks the end of one journey, our last appeal for marital justice in this space, it is also the next step in our shared journey to ever greater wholeness.”
As with all weddings, it involved song and dance – a small display and tune sung by MCC Rev. Carolyn Mobley.
Among those in attendance were Nicole Preis, one part of the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Richmond back in October of last year when the state’s ban was struck down.
That fateful day was actually the first time the couple had met Gorsline, who performed their impromptu ceremony at the court house. They’ve been connected to the Rev. ever since.
“It’s still sinking in for me, that this is all real,” she said as familiar and new faces mingled around in celebration. “But I think this day is just as important as [the day we were married]”
But it wasn’t all new faces, the Witness for Love event had become an annual happening often highlighted by a local Unitarian Church congregation wearing yellow shirts and waving rainbow flags.
The pastor of the local Unitarian Church, Rev. Gene Pupke (bottom image right), helped preside over Gorsline and Lebolt’s ceremony.
“In 11 years of demonstrating for marriage equality in Central Virginia, we’re at the John Marshal Court house building in which we are finally realizing the fullness of equality we were promised in the constitution, but was withheld for years,” she said to a roaring crowd.
Pupke, along with Rev. Mobley, Rabbi Ahuva Zaches, and Rev. Janet James all played roles in the multi-denominational ceremony.
Maryanne Archer came up from the campus of Hampton Sydney college near Farmville, VA. Said she had been the couple spiritual advisor for 11 years and had attended one of the first Witness for Love events almost as long ago. Her experience then was significantly less joyful – those who asked for licenses were turned away, and those there in solidarity were set upon by Court House guards.
“They chased us way,” she said. “It was a little big scary and wild, but good.”
Archer watched Gorsline and Lebolt get married – as their spiritual advisor, it was a particularly moving moment for her.
“I’m honored to be here for them, and thrilled to see this is happening across the country,” she said. “Its long over due for love to triumph.”
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