Eight same-sex couples marry in Rock County on Monday

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Nick Crow
Monday, June 9, 2014

JANESVILLE--Eight same-sex couples received marriage licenses and were wed at the Rock County Courthouse on Monday.

Amanda Suckow and Jennifer Wagner were the first.

Here are the stories of the other seven:


Karla Olvera and Rosa Lopez, both of Janesville, have been together for six years.

Olvera said Lopez was ready to marry after two years together.

“To me, it's just a document with my name on it,” Olvera said. “We've waited long enough and have the same equal rights everybody else does.”

The couple plans to have kids and wanted their family to be official, Olvera said.


Brian Benkoske and Jesse Welbes, both of Evansville, have been together 17 years.

The couple have considered going to other states to get married but never could settle on a plan.

“Once we found out it was legal here, we wanted to get it done as soon as possible,” Benkoske said.

Benkoske said it was the right thing for him and Welbes and hoped no judge would place a stay on the decision.

“We've been wanting to do it for years,” Benkoske said. “We already live together. Just to have it legal means a lot.”


Richard Laurich, 62, and Neil Lawrence, 76, have been together for 26 years. The Janesville couple said they felt a sense of relief that they finally could get married.

“I'm glad because we aren't getting any younger,” Laurich said.

The couple married in the shade outside the Rock County Courthouse as cars whizzed by on East Court Street.

“This is a very special moment,” Laurich said.


Cassandra “CJ” VanZandt and Elis Dornan have been together two years but have known each other for 10.

Monday was VanZandt's 25th birthday.

“I'm so excited I sped getting here,” VanZandt said.

The couple said they planned to drive to Rockford, Illinois, on Monday to wed before finding out they could marry in Rock County.

When asked why they wanted to get married, VanZandt had a simple response.

“Because I love her,” she said.


Cari Severson was married twice before but said this time she got it right.

“My kids just want me to be happy,” she said.

Severson and Judy Stone, of Footville, were the sixth couple married Monday.

“I'm just happy we can get married and actually have equal rights,” Stone said.

The couple have been together for more than four years and had been waiting for a good time to get married.

“Gender and orientation shouldn't matter,” Severson said. “My lifestyle shouldn't affect anyone else. If you find someone you're happy with, that's all that matters.”

The couple just want to live in a place where their marriage is going to be legal, honored and respected, Severson said.


Rural Edgerton residents Theresa Sorby and Mary Esselman had a commitment ceremony 12 years ago.

That didn't compare to the excitement they felt Monday, they said.

“We had family and friends there,” Esselman said. “It was great.”

The couple have been together for 20 years.

“We've waited a long time,” Sorby said.

The couple had considered going to another state or even another county to try and marry but decided Rock County would be best because it's home.

“Our home is here,” Esselman said. “We pay taxes here and wanted the money to go back into where we live. It wasn't going to make any difference going to another state.”


Ami Christophersen has been with Jaimie Myrseth for 18 months.

Christophersen is happy because now the 19-year-old can claim her new bride on her college financial aid statements.

“This helps me to be an independent student,” Christophersen said. “We just wanted to get it done and have the same rights as everyone else.”

Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler said that among the 58 Wisconsin counties she spoke with Monday, Rock County was one of 11 issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couple and issuing waivers allowing the marriages to take place immediately.

“How can you wait on guidance from the state?” Stottler said. “You can end up waiting a really long time and are in the meantime turning away couples.”

Stottler said she decided at 5 p.m. Sunday that Rock County would go ahead with issuing the licenses.

“This is coming extremely political,” Stottler said. “It's sad for me because I don't have a dog in the fight.”

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