Judith Gibson and Barbara DiBarnard share a tender moment after they were married in their home in Lincoln on Friday. Barbara and Judith, who have been together for 27 years, were finally able to legally apply for a marriage license in Nebraska following the U. S. Supreme Court's decision that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. 

Two lifetimes spent fighting for gay marriage culminated Friday in a quiet, two-story home near East Campus.

With family and friends nearby, two women held hands, looked into each other's tear-filled eyes and recited poems and words they wrote together.

“Twenty-six years ago, we made a commitment to one another, and our life together since then has made it clear that we continue that commitment and celebrate it,” Barbara DiBernard said.

“Now it has become possible to make that commitment legal, and it is in our best interest to do so,” said her partner, Judith Gibson. “Although no legal pledge can strengthen our commitment, we both ask that we be legally married in Nebraska.”

Ordained minister and longtime friend Maija Burdic then married the couple.

Earlier Friday, DiBernard and Gibson made history by being the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license in Lancaster County.

But first, they had to wade through a little red tape.

They waited patiently for nearly half an hour for Lancaster County Clerk Dan Nolte to get the county attorney’s permission to process their application.

“We’ve got our forms,” Gibson said, waving the paperwork in the air.

At 10:30 -- just 90 minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states -- Nolte told them he could process their application.

Barbara Baier and Lin Quenzer were right behind them. The two have been together for 27 years and had planned to marry in March before Nebraska's own same-sex legal challenge, Waters v. Ricketts, got put on hold.

Next in line were Bil Roby and Greg Tubach, two of seven couples who were plaintiffs in the case that sought to allow same-sex marriage in Nebraska and to recognize marriages performed legally elsewhere.

The two plan a quiet wedding in their backyard this fall.

 "It's going to be a real, real simple Greg and Bil thing," Roby said. "Jean shorts and T-shirts.

"I know that there’s another side that doesn’t see this as amazing,” he said. “All I can do when I think about that is just to hope to ask that side to reach out and get to know us. We’re good people. We’re solid people.”

After the Friday morning run to the courthouse, the two had a quiet afternoon.

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"It was a lot of quiet contemplation, thinking about how momentous today has been and thinking about individuals whom I know who are no longer here who would have celebrated this day as well," said Tubach.

Susan Waters called the news spectacular.

"I'm a little numb," she said Friday morning, adding that the news comes as her wife, Sally, has improved slightly but still has breast cancer.

The two were married in 2008 in California.

"It's not that we didn't think it might happen, but you always prepare for the worst and hope for the best," Susan Waters said at a mid-morning news conference in Omaha she attended with her wife and their 10-year-old daughter, Jade.

Beverly Reicks and Kathy Pettersen likely were the first lesbian couple to get married in Nebraska. They wedded at the Douglas County courthouse in a room mostly full of news media and cameras just after 10 a.m.

"Really (it) couldn’t have been better," Reicks said later by telephone.

The Friday afternoon ceremony for DiBernard and Gibson capped nearly three decades of fighting for equal rights. Even before joining a 2003 lawsuit seeking to strike down Nebraska’s ban on same-sex marriage, the two had to find the courage to tell friends and family they loved each other.

“Every small act of courage, every single event that anybody participated in has led us to where we are today,” said DiBernard, a retired English and women and gender studies professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

She and Gibson, a mental health counselor, said Friday’s court decision means they no longer have to worry about having the legal right to care for each other should one need to hospitalized.

When DiBernard, 66, was still employed, Gibson, 75 and a polio survivor, couldn’t participate in her insurance plan at the university.

After DiBernard retired, the university reversed the policy.

“When health care is an issue, that’s a great worry,” DiBernard said. “There was always the fear or possibility that some legal person might not recognize our relationship.”

Choking back tears, she thanked the countless supporters of gay marriage and lamented those who died before being able to marry the ones they loved.

“I didn’t think it was going to come in my lifetime,” she said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.


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