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Jackson County couples tie the knot — legally

Sheryl Baird and Shannon Rouhier's wedding was May 19, 2012, but on Monday — their two-year anniversary — they were officially and legally married in front of the Jackson County Justice Building after a federal judge ruled the state's gay marriage ban was unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane overturned a 2004, voter-approved constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman.

"The Court finds that there is no legitimate state interest that would justify the denial of the full and equal recognition, attendant rights, benefits, protections, privileges, obligations, responsibilities, and immunities of marriage to same-gender couples solely on the basis that those couples are of the same gender," McShane said in his order.

The announcement was made shortly after noon Monday, and around 2:30 p.m., Baird and Rouhier became the first same-sex couple in Jackson County to legally tie the knot.

"It's a historic day in that our marriage is recognized by the state and federal governments," Baird said while she and Rouhier filled out the necessary paperwork at the Jackson County Clerk's Office Monday afternoon.

"And to get married on our wedding day is really surreal," Rouhier added.

The Medford couple met in 2009 through a mutual friend, started dating in 2011 and, a year later, made a commitment to one another before about 50 friends and family members in the backyard of Baird's parents' house in Grants Pass.

A modified version of their vows are tattooed on Rouhier's waist, and Rouhier's lips are tattooed on Baird's arm above the date of their wedding.

After receiving a text announcing McShane's ruling, Baird and Rouhier, accompanied by their two foster children and Rouhier's 23-year-old daughter, beelined it to the Jackson County Clerk's Office, where they applied and were granted their marriage license.

"I didn't know if I'd see this happen in our lifetime," Baird said. "But I didn't see why it couldn't happen. Love is love."

Jerilyn Pool, a graphic artist certified to perform weddings, happened to be at the courthouse and volunteered to conduct the official ceremony.

"I heard about the ruling and wanted to see if anyone would come down," she said. "It's something I've voted for and advocated for for many, many years."

Pool, a member of Mormons for Marriage Equality, confirmed with a deputy clerk that her certificate was credible before marrying the couple on the steps of the fountain in front of the neighboring Jackson County Justice Building.

"This is going to get me in so much trouble with my parents," she said. "They believe marriage is between a man and a woman. But that's their prerogative."

Claudia Bolinger and Jenny Remley also were at the clerk's office to get their marriage license. Their wedding ceremony is set for Saturday at Union Creek.

"You hear the saying, 'You're already married in your heart,' but to be recognized by your peers and the citizens around you," Bolinger said, tears in her eyes and an unsigned marriage certificate in her lap.

As the couple left the courthouse Monday hand-in-hand, Baird and Rouhier asked Bolinger and Remley to stick around and act as witnesses, which they whole-heartedly agreed to do.

Clerk Chris Walker and her staff were notified by the state's vital records (office) of McShane's order and immediately got to work loading a new version of the digital application. Language in the application was changed from "bride and groom" to "party A and party B."

After filling out the application, couples had to wait in line to be issued a license and pay the $55 fee. The license is not valid until three days after it has been issued. However, couples can pay an additional $17 to have it validated immediately, Walker explained.

Jackson County deputy clerks sold four marriage licenses to same-sex couples Monday.

Terry Brown and Juilan Spalding have been together 27 years and were among those in line to get their marriage license. They have a wedding scheduled for May 31 in Lithia Park. Unitarian Minister Leslie Becknell Marx will officiate.

"It seemed important to do this now to make a statement to honor the judge's decision," Brown said.

"And to make a statement to ourselves that we are now equal to heterosexuals in marriage," Spalding added.

Their friends, Julie and Joseph Curl, who recently moved here from Tucson, Ariz., tagged along to support them.

"We left a state that doesn't offer equal rights to everyone and moved to one that does," Joseph Curl said.

Oregon is the 18th state to allow same-sex marriage.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.