‘History being made’

Samol, Swinson same-sex marriage first in Richmond County

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery – more than 200 pics!
* Video of the ceremony

ROCKINGHAM — Linda Samol and Tiffany Swinson were married by Richmond County Magistrate Cleve Baxley on Monday morning in downtown Rockingham, making them the first Richmond County couple to receive a marriage license for a same-sex couple.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Tiffany Swinson, right, and her wife, Linda Swinson, leave the Richmond County Magistrates Office at 9 a.m. Monday as the first same-sex couple legally married in Richmond County.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Tiffany Swinson, right, and her wife, Linda Swinson, leave the Richmond County Magistrates Office at 9 a.m. Monday as the first same-sex couple legally married in Richmond County.

“It’s history being made,” Samol said while sitting in the Register of Deeds Office while Linda Douglas was helping the two to complete the required paperwork.

The marriage was made possible on Friday, when a federal judge in North Carolina’s Western District issued an order permanently prohibiting defendants in a United Church of Christ lawsuit against North Carolina’s anti-LGBT amendment from enforcing the ban. U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. also denied Republican state leaders’ motion to intervene in the case.

The couple arrived at the old Richmond County Courthouse at 8:03 a.m., minutes after the business day official started for Douglas and her staff. Douglas had worked a little Sunday in preparation for the expected event. The necessary blank documents she needed to fill in before Monday’s ceremony didn’t arrive until late Sunday.

At 8:41 a.m., the couple completed signing off on the related forms and walked to the nearby Richmond County Magistrate’s Office. Nine minutes later, Baxley began the ceremony, which lasted approximately two and one-half minutes.

The pair were surrounded by daughter Linnette Samol and son Steven Quiros and nearly a dozen supportive family members and friends.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Tiffany Swinson, left, and wife Linda cap their marriage ceremony with a kiss. It's the first kiss by a same-sex couple legally married in Richmond County, North Carolina.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Tiffany Swinson, left, and wife Linda cap their marriage ceremony with a kiss. It’s the first kiss by a same-sex couple legally married in Richmond County, North Carolina. Daughter Linnette Samol is in the background.

The pair met some 18 months ago in a singles forum for lesbians on Facebook. The two have together since. As far back as June 2013, Linda Swinson said Tiffany began telling her that one day they’d be married.

* * * 

The couple entered the courthouse and headed towards the Register of Deeds Office at 8:03 a.m. Linda wore a form-fitting black pantsuit with Valentine’s Day-red blouse and matching high heels. Tiffany was more comfortable in a red dress shirt, black tie, black dress pants and red-and-white shoes.

Linda was nervous. She knew nothing was definite. She knew life was about to change.

“My leg won’t stop shaking,” she said.

Linda said she had woken up at 5 a.m., her leg already having a nervous twitch.

At 8:07 a.m., Linda realized not everyone was there — and that nothing could make the ceremony continue without Linnette and Steven.

“Still waiting for my two most important people,” Linda said.

The pair was supported and surrounded by friends old and new. On Saturday night Linda and Tiffany went to Zaxby’s for dinner and met a new friend who supported their impending marriage. She was invited to the wedding, which will be followed by a “Winter Wonderland” reception in Rockingham in December.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Register of Deeds Linda Douglas prepares the marriage license for Linda and Tiffany Swinson.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Register of Deeds Linda Douglas prepares the marriage certificate for Linda and Tiffany Swinson.

Other than a twitching right leg, Linda and Tiffany appeared calm throughout the process of paperwork. They reflected on what the legal right to marry had on them.

“I’m personally not offended by” those who disagree, Linda said. Instead, she said, the focus was forward and on their future as a family.

“I’m grateful it finally happened,” she said. “I’m not forcing my sexuality on anybody.”

In between answering questions for the necessary paperwork — Tiffany is African-American and Linda is Puerto Rican, their addresses and so on — the couple took time to thank those who’ve helped along the way. Especially recently. Linda said she estimated calling the Register of Deeds Office several times over the past week.

Register of Deeds Linda Douglas and her staff, Linda said, “have been amazing.”

Douglas shrugged off the praise.

“I’m just doing my job,” Douglas said. “This is what we do.”

At 8:26 a.m., Linda looks over to Tiffany.

“You’ve got the rings, right?”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Tiffany and Linda Swinson ensured they were not very far from each other, physically, Monday morning.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Tiffany and Linda Swinson ensured they were not very far from each other, physically, Monday morning.

Check, Tiffany said. Wouldn’t leave home without them. Linda said she gave Tiffany “20 chances to back out (and) she made it through them all.”

There was no backing down. As the two left the courthouse and at 8:43 a.m. passed by a silver PT Cruiser, Linda made a gesture at the front of the car.

A vanity tag. “Mrs. Swinson.”

It was official in their minds even if not on paper just yet.

Walking into the Magistrates Office, Linda held back for just a moment. She inquired if the whole party could witness the ceremony, above and beyond the two required witnesses.  The answer was yes.

“C’mon in, y’all,” Linda said.

After all, it was a day to be as inclusive as possible.

* * * 

The marriage ceremony over — after friends and family members showered the newly wedded couple with packets of Skittles, as in “taste the rainbow” — life returned to as normal as possible.

Linda had the day off. Tiffany had to go to work. Tiffany was out of contact lenses.

“Tomorrow, after all this, we have to go get contact lenses,” Linda said.

And married life commenced for Tiffany and Linda Swinson.

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News

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