Lynn Eckenrode and Nadya Popil aren’t revolutionaries. They’re simply in love. And it’s finally protected by law.
“Next couple!” shouted a clerk inside City Hall’s Register of Wills office. Lynn Eckenrode and Nadya Popil stepped up with their eight-month-old son, Gabriel, in tow. After 13 years, with merely two forms of identification and $80 in cash or money order, the couple were lawfully permitted to merge their lives and give their chlid parents who are married.
Caren Berger, the boss attorney who works for the Honorable Ronald R. Donatucci, Esq., trouble-shoots and advises for all the clerks within Wills, Orphan’s Court and in issuing marriage licenses. She sat with PW on Friday, hours after Mayor Michael A. Nutter officiated marriages for eight same-sex couples who’d applied for marriage licenses late Tuesday afternoon. Eighteen couples were part of history and brought their cash and IDs down immediately after U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.
Wednesday was a little heavier: The city issued licenses to 67 same-sex couples, and by Friday afternoon, the total was closer to 115. “It was a historic day that was long overdue,” said Berger. “We welcome the applicants with open hearts and minds, and we continue to do so.”
For some couples, who couldn’t wait for marriage in Pennsylvania, the decision also means that their out-of-state union is now just as valid as heterosexual marriages. And Berger was able to detail some of the significance from both personal and financial standpoints.
“First, I think of love and what it means to be totally committed to another person in an enduring and loving way,” she said. “The benefits that follow would be financial: filing a joint tax return, life insurance, benefits, pensions, any benefits through your employer, health insurance. Any benefits that would accrue to any married couple are now available to same-sex couples.”
Eckenrode and Popil are high school sweethearts from Scranton who call East Falls home. Eckenrode’s a marketer for Comcast, and Popil works in contracts at Homeland Security. After they got their license, the two told PW about what they’d told Gabriel Friday afternoon.
“I was talking to him earlier,” Popil said. “‘When you’re older, you’re not gonna realize how cool it is that mommy and mommy can get married.’ We’re excited for him to have his parents legally married.”
For Gabriel’s mothers and many other queer Philadelphians, the decision caught them off-guard. Many of us believed it would be months and years before the Commonwealth would get up to speed with the rest of New England and the mid-Atlantic. Eckenrode and Popil, like many other same-sex couples, flirted with the idea of marriage in another state or relocation. But they wanted to stay where their lives and jobs were. And now it’s paid off.
“We tossed around the idea of going to a different state for a while, but we really wanted it to be where we live,” said Eckenrode. “We wanted it to be recognized at home, and when [the judge’s ruling] happened, there was no doubt that we wanted to apply.”
Of Judge Jones’ 39-page decision, Berger explained: “One of the things he said was today we refer to this as same-sex marriage, but one day soon, he hopes, everybody will refer to it as just being married. In other words, there will be no distinction between marriage and same-sex marriage.”
Popil echoed that sentiment, saying that some friends and colleagues expected their partnership to be “gayer” or more radical. But really, they aren’t trying to be revolutionary with their loving family. Just stable. And protected by the law.
“We’re a couple, just like two other heterosexual people are,” Popil said, her smiling toddler on her hip. “[People] get to know us and realize that we are the same as them. We don’t want to make a difference. We’re a couple, just like anybody else.”