Kathy “Scout” Pettersen and Beverly Reicks Equality and love win
It’s funny how things once considered taboo, unthinkable, and unlawful become accepted practices. if not by everyone (Where is there one hundred percent consensus on anything?) then by the vast majority of us. Gay marriage is certainly one of those societal shifts. As the gay rights movement took hold and most of us came to terms with the fact that we have gay individuals in our lives whom we like or love or respect, ideas about same sex unions moved the public and private needle about this basic human and civil right little by little until what was thought impossible became practical, fair, lawful, and right. This is a piece I did about the women who became the first legally sanctioned same sex married couple in Douglas County, Nebraska.
Kathy “Scout” Pettersen and Beverly Reicks
Equality and love win
The kiss sealing their I-do’s graced the Omaha World-Herald’s front page and many other media platforms.
The couple, who share a home in Benson, waited years for legislation to catch up with public opinion They kept close tabs on the same-sex marriage debate. The morning their lives changed Pettersen was at The Bookworm, where she manages the children’s department, and Reicks, National Safety Council, Nebraska president and CEO, was getting blood work done at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
After hearing initial reports of the court reaching a decision, Reicks joined Pettersen at the bookstore. Once the 5-4 ruling in favor of marriage equality was confirmed, the pair drove to the courthouse for a license. Surrounded by hungry media, supportive staff and friends, they opted for an impromptu civil ceremony.
“We were greeted just with an abundance of joy and happiness,” Reicks says. “It was just really cool.”
“The reception was really warm. Everyone smiling and congratulatory. Lots of hugs from people I’d never met. It kind of made up for the disappointment I experienced in Neb. in 2000,” Pettersen says, referring to voters passing Initiative 416 prohibiting same-sex unions.
“It was troubling people thought certain people should be without civil rights,” Reicks says of the status quo that prevailed here.
Nebraska District Court Judge Joseph Battalion twice ruled the ban unconstitutional. A state appeal resulted in a stay that left gay couples in limbo until this summer’s milestone federal decision.
The couple’s friend, County Clerk Tom Cavanaugh, paid for their license. More friends witnessed the proceedings.
“We were just really honored so many people came through for us,” Pettersen says. “It was just really wonderful.”
“It was beyond what I ever imagined,” Reicks adds.
With the paperwork signed, Chief Deputy Clerk Kathleen Hall nudged the pair to give the media a marriage to cover. Pettersen and Reicks obliged. The lights, cameras and mics made for a surreal scene.
“I felt like I was in a whirlwind,” Pettersen recalls. “I felt like a celebrity,” Reicks says.
After basking in applause and cheers, the newlyweds answered reporters’ questions. Congrats continued outside. The couple celebrated with friends and family at La Buvette and Le Bouillon.
“It was an all-day, into-the-night celebration,” Pettersen says. “Lots of toasting.”
Reasons to celebrate extended to finally being accorded rights long enjoyed by opposite sex couples. Pettersen has an adopted daughter, Mia, and Reicks says, “Now she’s truly my step-daughter.” Recently filling out joint documents, Pettersen says, “I checked the married box for the first time without any hesitation or doubt. That was a very big deal to me. I couldn’t stop smiling it felt so good.”
Reicks reminds, “We owe a debt of gratitude to the plaintiffs who took these cases where they needed to go. They were brave enough to come forward and take up the challenge. We took advantage of the moment they created.”
“We reaped the benefits of their hard work,” Pettersen says. “I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. I do feel like we’re a part of history.”
Contrary to opponents’ fears, Reicks says, “The world did not come to an end because some gay and lesbian couples got married.”
Pettersen says It just all proves “love wins.”
Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film
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Author-journalist-blogger Leo Adam Biga resides in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. He writes newspaper-magazine stories about people, their passions, and their magnificent obsessions. He's the author of the books "Crossing Bridges: A Priest's Uplifting Life Among the Downtrodden," "Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film" (a compilation of his journalism about the acclaimed filmmaker) "Open Wide" a biography of Mark Manhart. Biga co-edited "Memories of the Jewish Midwest: Mom and Pop Grocery Stores." His popular blog, Leo Adam Biga's My Inside Stories at leoadambiga.com, is an online gallery of his work. The blog feeds into his Facebook page, My Inside Stories, as well as his Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Tumblr, About.Me and other social media platform pages.
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