“Sell those ladies a license!” boomed a voice, and the room went up in cheers.
For Jimmie Beall and Mindy Ross, the words were a long time coming. Sitting in the flower and bird feeder-filled backyard of their Galloway home, the engaged couple smile in the summer breeze, relaxing in Adirondack chairs on the covered patio. Beall came home with a bouquet of pink and white roses, and they are slowly releasing their lovely fragrance as the two talk about the day everything changed—there are tears, laughter, and lots of loving looks.
“When the ruling came down, we cried,” said Ross.
Every year on Valentine’s Day for the past seven years, the couple has gone to the courthouse to get a marriage license. The first time they visited the two were directed to see a judge, who explained that he was an advocate for marriage equality but his hands were legally tied. The next time they went, they met a magistrate who told them they can’t give them a license “but here’s some cookies,” said Jimmie. And it went on like that for five more years.
This year, although it wasn’t Valentine’s Day, Beall brought cookies herself, a tray of Mexican wedding balls and spiced pecans. “My dad grew up in the 1940s in Oklahoma when gay-bashing was a sport, and my grandma, who was 102, stuck up for me and said, ‘Bobby, what difference does it make as long as she’s happy and in love!’ She made spiced pecans, so I brought those along to honor her,” Beall said.
Glued to the Supreme Court blog, they waited. Then it happened: same-sex marriage bans were declared unconstitutional.
“The judges then had to read the decision, look at the rules of enforcement, and print new forms. It took about an hour,” explained Beall, with Ross adding, “At some point the magistrate who had offered us cookies, Fred Meister, brought us a copy of the ruling, hugged us, and said ‘I’m so happy I can do this.’”
The day before, Ross found herself in a Short North florist waiting for a bouquet of rainbow flowers. Over the sound system came the song “Marry Me” by Train. Loving the song, she looked it up and memorized it on the way home. When Beall came home that night, the bouquet shimmered while Ross serenaded her:
“Forever can never be long enough for me…”
Beall, of course, burst into tears. “Snot, the whole thing,” she laughed, looking over at Ross and grabbing her hand tight.
“We knew [the decision] would be Friday or Monday, and, historically, June 26 has been a day where major cases affecting the LGBT community have been decided,” Beall said. “But all I knew was I wanted to be there when it happened—[Mindy’s] 52 years old and has never been married … never thought she could get married.”
Many people talk about a marriage license being “just a piece of paper,” but the Supreme Court decision gave legitimacy to relationships across the country that heretofore had been relegated to the back of the bus, so to speak.
“You can just breathe, that’s what it feels like,” Beall said. “I think for people to understand the emotional impact of being an oppressed person, living skittish, being hyper-vigilant, lying, monitoring pronouns, talking in code, wondering if it’s okay to hold hands—Are we standing too close together?—or to even look at each other a certain way … if people really caught a glimpse of that piece, we wouldn’t let people live on the margins or put people through this.”
“You shouldn’t have to live wondering if another human being is going to honor my relationship, honor me as a human,” added Ross.
The wedding will take place in the fall. The two would’ve gotten married right then and there in the courthouse, but they want to have their children with them, Renee, 19, and Ryan, 27. The brides also want to have their extended family of kids—students from Columbus City Schools where they both work—to be able to attend. “I was working summer school at South High and these kids came up and congratulated me,” Ross said. “They would say, ‘I saw your article,’ and I’m gay. There was one post from this boy who just wrote, ‘Called It.’ It was great.”
“These were kids who didn’t know who they could talk to,” Beall finished. “We want to show them that this is possible for you—this romantic and special thing will provide one more piece of access, one more opportunity to build hope.”
The two are currently planning the wedding, and Ross jokes that she doesn’t recognize herself. “I mean, I’m 52 years old, how can I be excited? I never thought I’d be planning a wedding … when I was 19 or something, I watched the coverage of Princess Diana and Charles’ wedding for 24 hours, by myself, in the basement. I dreamed of the white horse fairy tale, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen. We’ll finally get to be able to say ‘I do,’ and someone will say, ‘You’re married.’”
“And you get to kiss the bride,” added Jimmie. “That’s the best part.”