There was no wedding planner for Fraser residents Eric Van Herwaarden and Philip Naill’s July 11 wedding in downtown Denver. No tuxedo rentals. No fragrant bouquets or champagne toasts.
But there was a lot of celebrating.
“I can’t tell you how welcoming everyone was, and how excited they were to be able to finally do this,” Van Herwaarden said of the Denver county clerk staff who guided them through the process.
Van Herwaarden and Naill said “I do” during a maelstrom of legal activity regarding the rights of gay couples to marry in Colorado.
The family went to Denver that day for a doctor’s appointment for their 2-year-old son, Jacob.
“It was kind of spur of the moment,” said Van Herwaarden. “We thought, we’re in a county that recognizes our commitment to each other.”
That commitment began in 2003 when the two met and began their relationship. Since then, they’ve bought a home, cared for their brood of pugs, and in the fall of 2011, adopted their son. They refer to each other as “my spouse,” and did so before the marriage certificate was issued.
But having the official license makes a difference to them.
“Jacob put his handprint on the marriage license … he was our witness and that just kind of tied our family together,” said Van Herwaarden.
“We’ve been together for 11 years so obviously we are together for better or worse. It was kind of like we sealed a contract together. We would have to get divorced now if we separated,” said Naill.
Earlier Civil union
The pair performed a civil union in Grand County earlier this year and plans to have a reception sometime this fall. They are in the process of changing their last name to Vandernail, which is already Jacob’s last name.
“I think it’s good for Jacob because when he grows older he can tell his friends, ‘yeah, his dads are married, just like your mom and dad are married.’ So I think it’s good for him, too,” said Van Herwaarden.
July 11 was the second day that Denver County issued marriage certificates to same-sex couples. On July 9, Adam’s County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree ruled that Colorado’s gay marriage ban violates constitutional rights, but the decision is stayed pending review from a higher court.
His decision followed another case in which the Tenth District Court, which includes Colorado, struck down Utah’s ban on gay marriage.
“That’s what everyone is starting to see — it is unconstitutional to have a ban against same-sex couples,” said Van Herwaarden of the recent cases. “Our rights were voted upon, and it shouldn’t be that way.”
Naill and Van Herwaarden saw other same-sex couples at the Denver Courthouse the day they married.
“We took a number and got it line, just like everyone else. It was awesome. There were brides and grooms and grooms and grooms. It finally felt like we had some normality to our relationship, just like everyone else,” said Van Herwaarden.
Three Colorado counties issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples: Boulder, Denver, and Pueblo. All were ordered to stop. Colorado Attorney General John Suthers went to the Colorado Supreme Court to order them to cease issuing the licenses until the higher courts decide. Denver and Pueblo acquiesced, but Boulder continues. A federal Judge is scheduled to hear arguments on the case beginning next Tuesday.
No marriages in Grand
Before going to Denver, Naill called the Grand County Clerk and Recorder’s office to inquire if they could get married in the county where they live. County Clerk Sara Rosene was advised not to by her attorney.
When the Sky Hi News contacted her for a comment, she stood by her decision.
“State law at that point mandated that a marriage license be between a man and a woman,” she said.
Her reaction to their request, along with the recent results of a poll at skyhidailynews.com, has made the couple more willing to be in the spotlight. The poll on skyhidailynews.com, asked “Do you applaud momentum in support of gay-marriage rights in Colorado?” 67.27 percent of respondents said no.
“The poll results up here on the website were a little hurtful because there are gay families up here and I want people to know that,” said Van Herwaarden.
Naill and Van Herwaarden are active members in the Fraser Valley community — Naill serves on the Fraser Town Board. Their son is growing up here.
“We’re part of your community. For you to say that our marriage isn’t as valid as yours or that you don’t agree with it is not fair,” said Naill.
“That’s what everyone is starting to see: It is unconstitutional to have a ban against same-sex couples.”
Eric Van Herwaarden
Regarding his right to marry