When Lindsey O’Brien and Rachel Miller walked into the Rock Island County Clerk’s Office to ask for a marriage license on Friday, the answer they got was quick and succinct.
An entourage of about 10 people who were with the same-sex couple merely said, “soon, soon,” as they walked out.
O’Brien, 26, of Moline and Miller, 26, of Chicago, with their friends and family carrying rainbow flags, then marched across the Centennial Bridge to the Scott County Recorder’s Office where they promptly received their marriage license.
While the march was symbolic, O’Brien said it is a small step toward a goal of seeing same-sex couples having all the recognition, rights and benefits of traditional married couples in the U.S.
“People don’t seem to realize that marriage is a contract,” O’Brien said, adding that she and Miller have been together for five years.
“It’s amazing that I cannot, as an adult, enter into a legal contract with another adult that’s recognized throughout the country,” she said.
There are more than 1,000 federal rights that traditional married couples have but same-sex couples do not, O’Brien said. Among them are social security benefits, Medicaid, hospital visitation, estate taxes, retirement savings, pensions, family leave, and health insurance.
Only five states — Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut — and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages, Miller said. Several states recognize the unions, but do not perform them.
While the states can define their marriage laws as they see fit, Miller said each state’s laws affect same-sex couples differently.
“We don’t have a choice where we can be married or when we get married,” Miller said, adding she and O’Brien are aware there is a movement to repeal same-sex marriages in Iowa.
“I love Iowa,” she said. “I’m excited to be married in Iowa. But until marriage is a federal right, until it’s legal everywhere, it’s still tenuous.”
At the Scott County Recorder’s Office, O’Brien’s brother, Patrick, 32, of Moline, acted as a witness for the couple.
“She was my witness when my wife and I applied for our marriage license,” he said.
Lindsey O’Brien’s mother, Ruth Ann, also was there to offer support.
“We raised our kids to stand for what’s right, and that’s what she’s doing,” Ruth Ann O’Brien said.
Scott County Recorder Rita Vargas watched as a clerk helped the couple complete the marriage application.
Vargas said that between April 2009 and April 2010, a total of 288 same-sex marriage licenses were issued by her office. “We’re up to about 300 now,” she said.
Rich Hendricks, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of the Quad-Cities in Davenport, and an activist in the gay community, also was there to support the couple.
“I think the nation’s going to be that way soon,” Hendricks said concerning the recognition of same-sex marriages.
“It feels really good,” Miller said after she and O’Brien got their license. It feels a lot more significant than I thought it would feel.”
“Now we get to plan all the fun stuff,” O’Brien said.
The wedding is planned for June 3, 2011, in Davenport.