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Locals react to same sex marriage ruling

BEAUMONT — News of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage was cause for celebration for some and dissent for others in the southeast Texas area.
Supporters of the gay and lesbian community including founders and members of Beaumont Pride gathered for a lunchtime celebration of the marriage equality ruling at Taco’s La Bamba on Calder Avenue in Beaumont. There was laughter and tears, hugs and champagne among the dozens who attended the impromptu called event.
Chance Henson shared an emotional hug with a group of friends just inside the doorway of the eatery amid cheers. Later, while seated at a back table, Henson tried to put his feelings into words regarding the monumental decision.
“It’s just sinking in,” Henson said. “All morning I’ve felt like I’m walking around in a dream. It didn’t feel real.”
Henson, who has been in a relationship with his partner Shawn Hare for eight years and are co-founders of Beaumont Pride, said he’s going through a lot of intense emotions.
“We’ve fought so hard for so long. This feels like a victory. I’ve never felt happier,” Henson said. “Shawn and I can get married and no one can take that from us. I’m so happy for my young friends who can grow up in a world where they can get married. This means everything to me.”
But those wishing to obtain a marriage license in Jefferson County will have to wait a while. Jefferson County Clerk Carolyn Guidry said marriage licenses are not yet being issued by her office pending a review by the District Attorney’s office.
“By seeking legal advise from the District Attorney’s office we are seeking to ensure any license we issue is unassailable,” Guidry said in a press release.
Once the review is complete, the county clerk’s office will issue a press release outlining any policy changes.
Theresa Goodness, chief deputy in the clerk’s office said the “phone has been ringing off the wall” with people wanting to know when they can get a marriage license.
Travis County got an early start in issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples on Friday. The county website even features a photo of two wedding rings on top of a rainbow colored flag with the announcement they will issue marriage licenses for same gender couples.
Not everyone was pleased with the Supreme Court decision. Texas Gov. Greg Abbot pledged to protect Texans’ fundamental right to religious liberty saying no Texan is required by the Supreme Court’s decision to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage.
He later issued a memo directing state agencies to protect religious liberty.
The order “applies to any agency decision, including but not limited to granting or denying benefits, managing agency employees, entering or enforcing agency contracts, licensing and permitting decisions, or enforcing laws and regulations,” according to a press release from the Governor’s office.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Beaumont issued a statement calling the decision, a ‘grave error’ while the Texas Pastor Council said the decision was a ‘violation of 6,000 years worth of history and the laws of nature and of nature’s God.’
The dissenting viewpoint on the topic of same sex marriage remains on the minds of those in favor of marriage equality.
Jimmy-John Akins, who was seated at a table with friends Amanda Turner, Gretchen Randall and Ryan W. White, was excited about the news.
“Now I can marry like my brothers and sisters have done,” Akins said.
Randall said it has been painful to watch family and friends not have the same rights as others and for White, it’s not about specific privileges but equal rights for everyone.
Henson admits the fight isn’t over yet.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Henson said. This is a major victory but change takes time. It won’t happen all at once and change happens with people.”
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