On their 49th anniversary as a couple, Milton residents Ronald Tipton and William Kelly were finally able to tie the knot.
“It’s hard for me to believe that we’re able to get married after 49 years together,” Kelly said before the July 3 ceremony at the Sussex County Marriage Bureau in Georgetown. “I’m glad it’s finally happening because we deserve the same rights as everyone else. I hope the rest of the country can fall in line with [Delaware].”
Tipton said he testified before the Senate and the House of Representatives in support of the Civil Marriage Equality and Religious Freedom Act, which was passed and signed into law by Gov. Jack Markell on May 8.
“About three years ago, [Kelly] was very ill and in intensive care at a [Veterans Affairs] hospital in Philadelphia,” Tipton said. “I couldn’t go in to see him because I wasn’t family.”
Kelly, who spent eight-and-a-half years in the military, said Tipton wasn’t even able to call him while he was hospitalized.
“That’s wrong,” he said. “I’m glad this is straightened out because if it happens again, he’ll be able to come see me.”
Tipton and Kelly were married by Annie Besche of the Marriage Bureau.
“May you treasure this day always, remembering its beauty, its joy and its promise, in front of your family and friends here today,” Besche said at the close of the ceremony.
Milton residents Joanne Pacana and Nancy Reece, together for 29 years, applied for a marriage license on July 3. They plan to get married July 21 on a friend’s farm.
“It’s great this is finally happening,” Pacana said. “We watched the news every day and when [same-gender marriage was legalized] we jumped up and down and hollered, ‘Yay!’”
Lewes residents Joe Buccio and Glen Lankford held a civil union ceremony last year. They converted their union to a legal marriage on Friday.
“Besides having the benefits of health insurance and things of that nature, we’ve been together 15 years and we want to make it official because we care about each other,” Buccio said.
Same-gender marriage became legal in Delaware on July 1. Couples were able to apply for marriage licenses that day, but due to a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, they were not able to get married until July 2.
Between July 1 and mid-day on July 8, the Sussex County Marriage Bureau converted 61 civil unions to marriages and issued 73 marriage licenses. Of the licenses issued, 44 were for same-gender couples, 21 male and 23 female.
Page 2 of 2 - Marriage licenses are $50 for in-state residents and $100 for out-of-state residents. Conversions from civil unions to marriages are $50.
Assuming that all of the services rendered to same-gender couples through the bureau since July 1 were for in-state residents, Sussex County pulled in a minimum of $5,250 in just four-and-a-half business days. That amount is likely higher, as the bureau issued marriage licenses to same-gender couples from other states like Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Comparatively, the bureau normally issues about 35 marriage licenses each week, which would total $1,750 if all the couples were in-state residents.
Sussex County Clerk of the Peace John Brady said he anticipated his office would be very busy the first week with civil union conversions and same-gender couples waiting for the legalization of gay marriage.
“What surprised me was the number of couples coming in from other states, which is a direct result of the Supreme Court’s ruling [which deemed the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional],” Brady said. “They’ve been coming in to get wedding licenses because while their states won’t recognize their marriage, the federal government will.”
The DOMA decision was handed down by the Supreme Court on June 26 with a 5-4 vote.
“It doesn’t matter if it was a same-sex couple or an opposite-sex couple, in every ceremony I performed you could see the love on the faces of the couples, who were truly happy with the idea of being married to one another,” Brady said. “So I think the happiest place in Georgetown right now is the Marriage Bureau.”