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September 10, 2013

BEAM: Home sweet home?

— Resting comfortably over their front door, a broom hangs sideways inside Kary and Lori’s cozy Floyd County home.

Only two years ago, the couple leapt over the wooden stick during their wedding ceremony in Louisville just as those who have fallen in love had done centuries before. In the antebellum South, slaves, who by law were not allowed to marry, demonstrated their commitment to each other in a similar way. Across the pond, the term “broomstick wedding” became synonymous with questionable unions in 18th century Europe.

While Kary and Lori do not question the depth and devotion of their marriage, they, too, must acknowledge its actual validity. Despite all the photos around their house of their happy day or the memories of the friends who came to witness it, from a legal standpoint, the two women are not accepted as a married couple.

Kentucky, nor Indiana for that matter, recognizes gay marriage. And the recent Supreme Court decision that ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional does nothing to change their situation.

While getting married in another state that allows same-sex marriage might grant them some federal rights even while living in Indiana, Kary and Lori remain skeptical.

“We’ve done everything we can possibly do from a legal standpoint to protect ourselves. As soon as we got married, we went to our attorney and we had all of our paperwork put together,” Kary said. “Everything that we could possible do legally, we’re covered on.”

Still, the couple worries about the political climate in Indiana. Some legislators have renewed their push for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to be placed on the 2014 statewide ballot for ratification.

Only one more passage through both branches of the state legislature would make this happen. In 2011, the proposed amendment was approved for the first time with a vote of 70-26 in the House and of 40-10 in the Senate.

Recent polls suggest the majority of Hoosiers oppose such legislation. A November 2012 Ball State survey found that 54 percent of Indiana residents who were questioned disagreed with the amendment, with only 38 percent polled actually having said they were in favor of the prohibition.

“We pay taxes, yet we don’t have any of the rights that other couples have. After all the things that have been going on in Indianapolis, it’s made us feel very much not welcome living in this state,” Kary said. “Why do we continue to live here and pay these bills and be a part of the community if we’re not accepted for who we are?”

Bigotry is nothing new for the Southern Indiana pair. From early in their adult lives, people have made judgments about their characters based on their sexual orientation. Lori, who realized she was gay after graduating high, has lost friends after coming out.

“I never looked at any of my friends in that manner. That was never the case,” Lori said. “Just because I am gay doesn’t change who I am. I’m still the same person.”

Kary confessed to a friend at the age of 17 that she was a lesbian. Soon, the whole school knew her secret.

“I had these questions and was trying to find my own identity and here I told a friend of mine that I grew up with and the whole freaking school found out. So I had to grow up in a situation that I got picked upon,” Kary said. “I got called dyke. I got called lesbian. I heard this walking down the hall every day.”

While attitudes have changed for the better in recent years, anti-gay sentiment still is prevalent, Lori said, in the cities along the Ohio. The couple would like to have a child, but the adoption laws in Indiana worry them. So much so that Lori and Kary have talked about moving to one of the 13 states that allow same-sex marriage where they hope their child would grow up without being stigmatized.

“If there was a way people could see it from a different side of the coin and actually put their feet in those shoes, they might have a different level of respect,” Kary said. “I think if a lot of people would stop making those judgments… and were a little more open-minded, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. What does it matter who I sleep with?”

— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at adbeam47@aol.com

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