Matthew Schreck and Jose Fernando Gutierrez had long been prepared to get married at a moment’s notice should Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage be struck down in court — that’s why they kept all the required documents in a folder in their car.
“We were ready for the day,” Schreck told BuzzFeed.
Schreck, the manager a Goodwill store, and Gutierrez, a special education teacher at a Milwaukee public school, said they were the first of dozens of same-sex couples who married in Milwaukee and Madison in the hours after U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb struck down the Wisconsin’s 2006 constitutional ban on marriage June 6.
And with similar bans on marriage for same-sex couples being struck down in several states across the country — only to be put on hold pending an appeal — the couple wanted to make sure that if the same happened in Wisconsin, they’d be married before it was too late.
Schreck, shortly after hearing the news that the ban was struck down, rushed to pick up Gutierrez from a meeting at work. By the time they got to the Milwaukee County Courthouse, they were shaking.
“We walked in and we actually stopped because there was only a bride and a groom section and we didn’t know what to do, where to sign, where to put what,” Schreck said. “We were so full of emotion. It was an incredible experience. It was surreal.”
With press and onlookers standing by, they were married in the courthouse by a friend, Rev. Erik Koepnick — the very first marriage he officiated as a newly ordianed minister in the United Church of Christ.
“Just knowing that we can stand here and be equal just means the world to us,” Schreck said. “We are just regular people. We pay taxes, have dog, own a house. We just want to be like everyone else and now we can do that.”
But questions remain as to whether their marriage will be considered valid, as the court — while striking the ban down as unconstitutional — has not yet issued a final judgment in the case. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in a statement Friday that the ban was still in effect even after Friday’s ruling. In addition, state officials defending the ban in court have requested an emergency stay on the ruling in light of the marriages taking place.
Nonetheless, more than 283 same-sex couples have already obtained marriage licenses in Milwaukee and Madison, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Schreck and Gutierrez took the confusion in stride, telling BuzzFeed they expect the legal situation to be messy but also that ultimately their marriage will stand.
“We recognize the state is trying to do a stay and a repeal,” Schreck said. “We anticipate there will be something going on tomorrow in court. We feel confident that we will win in the end.”
The couple, who have been together for more than seven years, described the moments of their marriage as a whirlwind and recall having to contact friends and family to let them know that they had finally been able to marry. “I’ll never forget the moment I started to repeat to people that I am married and that he is my husband and telling my family in Mexico and L.A,” Gutierrez said, while Schreck said he’ll never forget the moment when he said “I do” — “Definitely the best moment of my life,” he added.
They moved to Milwaukee in 2010 and Gutierrez proposed on Valentine’s Day that year during a walk in the park with their dog. In recent years, as marriage equality came to nearby states like Illinois and Minnesota, not being able to marry in their home state began to wear on them, Schreck said.
“But there’s no place we’d rather live than in Milwaukee,” he said. “We wanted to wait for marriage equality to come to Wisconsin. We wanted to get married in our home state. We love it here, and we wanted to do it here.”
To celebrate, Schreck and Gutierrez had dinner and drinks at a nearby hotel with a view overlooking Milwaukee with friends and family who could make it in time and attended the annual Milwaukee Pride Fest on Saturday and Sunday.
“Our party was Pride Fest,” Gutierrez said. “Everyone recognized us from the paper and asked to take pictures with us. And it was great to have seen Mary Lambert singing ‘Same Love’ yesterday.”
They look froward to holding a wedding ceremony for friends and family to attend this fall. As for planning all of that, Schreck said, “We’ll have to start that soon.”