Within minutes of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, Emma Foulkes (left) and Petrina Bloodworth of Atlanta received the first marriage license for a gay couple in Fulton County.
Photo: David Wickert/dwickert@ajc.com
Photo: David Wickert/dwickert@ajc.com

In Atlanta, same-sex couples already tying the knot

After being pronounced “wife and wife,” Emma Foulkes and Petrina Bloodworth exchanged their first matrimonial kiss Friday in a Fulton County State Courtroom.

In much the same way, the “I dos” of same-sex couples echoed through metro Atlanta courthouses following a landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide.

In some counties like Fayette and Clayton, it was business as usual with few or no same-sex marriage applications. In others like Fulton and DeKalb, gay couples lined up to tie the knot and courts held special ceremonies.

Fulton County had performed 17 same-sex marriages by 2:30 p.m.

State Court Judge Jane Morrison officiated the first one for Foulkes and Bloodworth as the couple was surrounded by reporters, well-wishers and their son, Raimius Foulkes, 22.

The pair from Atlanta met at a party a decade ago. For years, they planned to get married but waited.

“We were going to run someplace else and get married,” Foulkes said. “But our son was in college and we wanted him to be home to see this. And we wanted to see the country move in the right direction.”

If the legal obstacles they faced were unusual, the final hurdle was mundane: government paperwork. At the Probate Court office, they giggled over the license application.

“You’re so nervous,” Foulkes told her partner as they filled it out. “Look at your signature.”

‘The tears just started’

In Cobb and DeKalb counties, court officials awaited direction from state Attorney General Sam Olens before issuing licenses.

Olens gave the go-ahead around 11:30 a.m. in a memo to state agencies: “Georgia’s local governments are now constitutionally required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples … and to recognize same-sex marriages on an equal footing with all other marriages.”

He went on to say. “State agencies and state employees are required to treat those who are lawfully married in a similar fashion.”

By late afternoon, between two and three dozen marriage licenses had been given out to same-sex couples in DeKalb, though only a handful sought to be married during the usual Friday afternoon ceremony in Magistrate Court.

“It’s amazing,” Sylvia O’Connell of Decatur said in between quick pecks on her bride’s cheek.

O’Connell and her spouse, Annie Dollarhide, 40, were the second couple to be married in DeKalb. The couple, who are raising a 5-year-old daughter, had already proposed to one another and bought rings. Dollarhide, a CNN copy editor, and O’Connell, a personal trainer, had Friday off work and were watching a show on the iPad when the alert popped up.

“It said, ‘gay marriage is legal,’ and the tears just started,” Dollarhide said.

They decided their wedding would be outside the DeKalb Courthouse, just hours after the Supreme Court ruling.

“A line had formed behind us six people long (in the license office), and they all started to applaud when we got our license,” Dollarhide said.

Still expecting a deluge, DeKalb County Probate and Magistrate courts announced they would open from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday to accommodate marriage license requests.

Historic shift

Cobb County made national headlines in 1993, when the county commission passed a resolution condemning gay lifestyles as “incompatible with the standards to which this community subscribes.” That action caused the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games to move its volleyball venue from Cobb for the 1996 Summer Games.

Nearly two decades later, Cobb County court officials were holding a special marriage ceremony for same-sex couples in a probate courtroom.

Some Cobb residents, however, remained deeply opposed to gay marriage.

“I believe God put a man a women together for a reason and I think we should retain those values,” said Kennesaw resident Alex Rodriquez, 56, who was on his way to the county courthouse to marry his fiancée. “This could definitely impact children who are possibly adopted by these couples who will be exposed to an unbalanced relationship.”

Things were “rather uneventful” in Fayette County, said Probate Judge Ann Jackson. A couple — two women — was issued a marriage license shortly after noon.

In Gwinnett, Taylor Nash and Kelly Martinelli had camped outside the courthouse on Thursday but left disappointed after the Supreme Court didn’t issue a ruling.

But the couple, engaged since April, were euphoric as they returned next day. Nash, in a long teal dress, clasped hands with Martinelli, in a white shirt and khakis, as they recited their vows — becoming the first gay couple to get married in Gwinnett.

“I’m just going to say ‘partners in marriage,’” Superior Court Judge Debra Turner said. “This is a first for me. It’s very, very exciting.”

A family friend said people have been congratulating the couple and asking for autographs, but not everyone has been supportive.

Last night and this morning, some people called them animals, Nash said. Martinelli said others have told the couple they are going to hell.

But Martinelli said the Supreme Court ruling shows them nothing is impossible.

“It’s very emotional,” Martinelli said. “We feel like we’ve been trapped, and now we’re finally free.”

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Staff writers Dan Klepal, David Wickert, Arielle Kass, April Hunt, Tammy Joyner and Rhonda Cook contributed to this story.