As soon as she heard the news, Lilly Leyh turned the car around and headed for the Recorder of Deeds Office in St. Louis City Hall as quickly as she could.
Little did she know that she and her partner, Sadie Pierce, were about to become the first same-sex couple to legally marry in Missouri.
“When we got there and realized we were first in line, it was a truly emotional moment for both of us,” Leyh said. “We were overwhelmed.”
Leyh and Pierce (MSW ’14), obtained their marriage license
after a Missouri judge this month declared unconstitutional the state’s
10-year-old ban on same-sex marriage. Leyh is scheduled to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis in May with master’s degrees in both social work and business administration, from the Brown School and Olin Business School, respectively.
“It was a moment both of us had anticipated for a long time but were never sure might actually happen,” Leyh said. “I got a text alert about the decision shortly after I picked Sadie up from work. I made a quick U-turn and we headed back downtown. We wanted to get there as quickly as possible in case the decision was overturned.”
Following the signing of the official documents, the pair went to the Brookings Hall archway for a brief outdoor ceremony with friends, officiated by Anna Shabsin, JD, senior lecturer at the Brown School.
Leyh and Pierce met in one of Shabsin’s courses.
“I had no idea that Lilly and Sadie would ask me to participate in their celebration,” Shabsin said. “I couldn’t have been more surprised and honored when I came into my office one day to find a lovely note asking me if I would officiate at their commitment ceremony on June 6, 2015. I was so touched — crying and smiling at the same time. Of course I said yes!”
Before finding out that the Missouri ban had been lifted, Leyh and Pierce planned to marry next summer in Illinois. Though the surprise announcement moved things up a bit, they still plan a June celebration for friends and family.
“I think it is amazing to have been a part of this historic moment for Missouri and St. Louis, one that for so long so many couples have hoped would happen,” Pierce said. “But at the end of the day, it’s more exciting that now I’m married to my best friend.”
Shabsin credits the open and encouraging community at the Brown School with helping to make the historic moment possible.
“Since I have been at the Brown School, I have seen such wonderful growth, especially with LGBT rights,” Shabsin said. “We all recognize marriage as a civil-rights victory — the legal expansion of over 1,000 rights and liberties that had been kept from gays and lesbians due solely to the immutable characteristic of sexual orientation. So, we celebrate this victory. However, we all also know that the winning of these rights is just the beginning.”