Same-sex couples celebrate first day of legal civil unions

Michelle Bulla, left, signs the Rev. Rob Ashton’s record as her legal partner Lynn Worley wipes away tears of joy following their civil union ceremony at the Center for Independence Wednesday on the first day that same sex unions were allowed in the state of Colorado.



Tears streamed down Jerry R. Ditter’s face and formed deep pools of happiness in Nicholas L. Walker’s eyes.

For the past 10 years, the men have longed for the day when their partnership would be legal. And that day arrived Wednesday, when the rights of gay and lesbian couples were recognized for the first time in Colorado through civil unions.

Ditter, 41, a Colorado Mesa University theater professor, and Walker, 29, a commercial photographer and Sprouts employee, were the first to have a civil union ceremony at the One Colorado party at the Center for Independence Wednesday night.

The room was abuzz, and the men exchanged a few inaudible words, but everything about how they felt could be seen in their eyes.

“We’ve worn these without a blessing for years,” Ditter said after the ceremony, looking down at either man’s newly shined white gold band. “I feel blessed.”

Originally from the Midwest, Ditter and Walker met Christmas Eve 10 years ago. Three days later they were engaged with the hope they could one day be a legal couple.

On Wednesday, knowing their dreams were about to come true, the men were at the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s office at 8:23 a.m. to pick up the necessary paperwork. The office opened at 8 a.m.

They were one of five couples to obtain the civil union document Wednesday, the Clerk and Recorder’s office said.

Until Ditter and Walker signed the paperwork, they handled it like a newborn child.

“I haven’t even folded it,” Ditter said.

On Wednesday night, however, they filled out every blank line, getting every needed signature. They borrowed a stranger’s black pen. She let them keep it.

May 1 is their new anniversary. It’s the same date Ditter’s parents were married.

“She wishes she was here,” Ditter said of his mother.

Honestly, the men said, the reason they were so excited for a civil union was more about legal issues and medical decisions that are “so important,” Ditter said.

Several months ago, Walker was injured during technical rehearsals for a local ballet and had to go to St. Mary’s Hospital. When Ditter went to the emergency room, not only was he told Walker wasn’t there, he was told Walker had never been there, Ditter said.

Technically, Ditter wasn’t family.

“It made us feel like second-class citizens,” Ditter said.

Now?

“It’s nice knowing if I died tomorrow the people I care about, the things I care about, the animals I care about will be provided for,” Ditter said.

He and Walker have three dogs, six cats and a bird, with plans to one day adopt.

“I used to teach preschool,” Walker said with a smile.

While Walker and Ditter reflected on the past 10 years, Grand Junction couple Lynn Worley and Michelle Bulla became the second couple to participate in a civil union ceremony at the center Wednesday night.

Ditter and Walker turned to applaud, and the women threw their arms in the air.


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