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Kymberlie McGuire

The Friday morning that the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage came down, Kymberlie McGuire and Trish Robinson were ready. Both women had already taken the day off in hopeful anticipation, and were in their respective homes obsessively following SCOTUSblog. “I was like okay, okay, let it be today, let it be today,” McGuire told us that afternoon, while enjoying a bottle of cider with Robinson at the West Alabama Ice House. “I didn’t want people to have to wait any longer.” Furthermore, the city’s annual Pride parade was that Saturday, which made the whole thing seem like kismet.

It was 8:59 and she was still in bed, McGuire told us, when the words “first decision: marriage” appeared on her phone. She jumped up and screamed, scaring the crap out of her cats. At 9:03 her phone rang. It was her good friend of two decades, Robinson. Neither of the women is gay, and neither is married. Still, they celebrated history together, cheering as same-sex nuptials became a reality in all 50 states. How long had they been waiting for this day? “Years,” said the pair in unison, still giddy. 

“We did feel like it would happen,” said Robinson. “Legal scholars everywhere were saying it would. But it still wasn’t real.”  

Something else became a reality in that moment: Pop Vows, a one-time, free-of-charge mass wedding that Robinson and McGuire had been planning—also for years—to offer gay couples in the event of a favorable Supreme Court decision. It was to be one big party, they were going to marry a lot of couples, and they were super-excited.

“I remember the first conversation that we had,” said Robinson, speaking of a long-ago dinner full of what-ifs about gay marriage and Texas. “At the time, bakers [in other states] were saying they weren’t going to make cakes for same-sex couples. I’m a baker”—she runs a business out of her home—“so I said, ‘You know what? When it happens I’m going to go down and give everyone who wants to get married a cake.’” McGuire, upping the ante, said she’d bring everyone flowers. 

“And it just evolved from there,” Robinson remembered. 

In the days leading up to the Supremes’ 5-4 decision, the two had set a date for their Pop Vows and enlisted a whole roster of sponsors, with more rolling in all the time. Sambuca, a restaurant downtown, had agreed to offer its upstairs area for the occasion. There would be florists and photographers and gift bags, all of it donated. Robinson planned to bake each couple a small, traditional tier cake—Theatre Under the Stars was contributing cake toppers—and construct a big Styrofoam version for photographs. McGuire herself, meanwhile, would perform the ceremonies. 

“In February, I got ordained,” she said proudly.

As soon as McGuire and Robinson got off the phone that morning, both rushed to the Harris County courthouse to cheer on couples applying for wedding licenses, and to get word out about Pop Vows. This proved difficult at first, as County Clerk Stan Stanart, almost alone among his ilk in Texas’s major cities, initially refused to issue licenses until new forms for same-sex couples had been printed.

Outside the courthouse, however, there was a small but jubilant crowd, holding signs reading Love Is Love, Marriage 4 All, and, of course, #POPVOWS. Cars honked and people waved and thumbs-up were exchanged, even as McGuire and Robinson handed out wedding flyers. 

By late that afternoon, nine couples had agreed to be Pop Vowed, although the pair fully expected that number to double. “We had someone write and say, the love of my life and I have been together for 21 years and we want to get married. It’s just so nice,” McGuire said, her voice breaking. “I mean, why would you want to deny them? I just get so worked up about it.” 

Although neither had a proverbial dog in this fight, for years McGuire and Robinson had felt pain for the discrimination their friends had suffered. Pop Vows grew out of that pain. “To be friends with literally hundreds of people, and watch their rights get trampled on, and the love that they have for other people disrespected, it’s heartbreaking to me to see that. It kills me,” said McGuire. “The couples that we’ve already talked to and we’ve booked for Pop Vows, they’ve been together for decades in some cases. They have children. If that’s not a family, what is?” She wiped tears from her eyes.

The women had been at the ice house only a few minutes when word arrived that Stanart, bowing to pressure from County Attorney Vince Ryan, had begun issuing marriage licenses. Robinson and McGuire were euphoric. As they finished their drinks and prepared to head back to the courthouse with their flyers, a woman who’d been playing darts nearby ran over to the table. “Are we cheers-ing the Supreme Court decision?” she asked, clinking bottles with everyone before dashing back to her game. 

“This feels like a first step in getting people to recognize that it’s not a big deal. It’s not strange, it’s not weird, it’s just—they’re getting married,” said McGuire, her voice filled with hope. “And eventually, it won’t be, they got gay-married. It will be, they got married.”

 

To read the stories of couples married at Pop Vows, visit popvows.com.

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