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Victoria County issues 5 same-sex marriage licenses

Karla Woodward can't wait to display her marriage license in her living room.

After knowing Kellie Schmittlein for 15 years, the pair applied Tuesday morning.

"Oh, isn't it pretty?" Woodward said as the ornate official Texas license came off the printer in the county clerk's office.

Schmittlein and Woodward were the first couple issued a license in Victoria County since same-sex marriage was legalized by a Supreme Court ruling Friday. The county clerk's office, which was waiting for updated online forms and a legal opinion from the district attorney, began issuing licenses at 10:30 a.m.

"Our goal was to make it as seamlessly a transition as we can and to be able to accommodate everyone," said County Clerk Heidi Easley.

The couple waited so they could get married in Victoria County because it's where they live, Woodward said. The couple have a 17-year-old daughter and have been in a civil union since 2002.

Not even realizing they were the first same-sex couple to receive a license, Schmittlein and Woodward arrived about 11 a.m. to avoid the crowds, they said.

"Everybody was just like, 'hey, hey, hey let's go do it,' and now nobody is here," Woodward said. "Everybody's been wanting this and wanting this and now nobody shows up."

Easley personally filed the marriage license for the couple because of the controversy surrounding the delay.

"I'm assuming that people believed that my hold out was maybe out of malice, but it wasn't," Easley said. "It was purely waiting on direction."

Direction came in the form of District Attorney Stephen Tyler's opinion Tuesday morning. Easley said she wanted to make sure it was within her rights to issue the license in the midst of directives issued at the state government level.

"I've got to not only look out for myself but for my deputy clerks," Easley said.

Clerks were given the option not to file the same-sex marriage licenses if it is against their religious beliefs, Easley said.

"If they feel it's against their religious beliefs, we have enough deputies who can cover it," Easley said. "We're trying to make it work for everybody."

Although they have never run into any issues because they are a same-sex couple in Victoria, Woodward said she knows people have differing opinions.

"I know there's a lot of people who don't agree with that, and that's fine," Woodward said. "Everyone is entitled to their opinions and their beliefs and all of that. As far as equality, I think everyone should have equal access to everything."

Two other couples came in for licenses within the first hour and the county issued five throughout the day Tuesday.

Victoria wasn't the only county to begin issuing licenses in the Crossroads. Like in Victoria County, officials in Calhoun, Jackson and Matagorda counties said they were all having problems with their online software, which was missing fields needed to collect information from couples. The three counties had their software updated and were ready to give licenses Tuesday, although no couples came in to apply for one.

Wharton and Lavaca counties were still having software problems Tuesday.

Wharton's county clerk didn't expect to issue licenses until the end of the week. Lavaca is using analog forms designed for typewriters to issue licenses, although no one had yet applied.

Schmittlein and Woodward said their wedding will not be a large ceremony, and their legal marriage won't change anything.

However, they said they were happy that they could now be legally recognized.

"It's about time," Schmittlein said.

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©2015 Victoria Advocate (Victoria, Texas)

Visit Victoria Advocate (Victoria, Texas) at www.victoriaadvocate.com

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