R. Robert Loyd and John W. Schenck, the organizers of the Gay Pride Parade in Conway, were the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Arkansas today.
While signing the license in the Faulkner County Clerk’s office in Conway, and then waiting for the clerk’s receipt, the couple shook with nervousness and excitement after years of battling for the right.
They’ve been together for 40 years. Schenck worked the bar at the Stonewall Inn during the 1969 riots that launched the gay rights movement. Loyd served in Vietnam. They were legally married in Canada in 2004, and they are plaintiffs in Wright v. Arkansas, the challenge of the state’s same-sex marriage ban that Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza overturned last year. It is still on appeal before the Arkansas Supreme Court.
“We now, today, have officially hit the ground,” Schenck said.
“And it’s been a long leap,” Loyd said.
“After all that we have been through, there is no way that we weren’t going to be here first to get our license,” Loyd said.
Loyd and Schneck were at the Pulaski County Courthouse last year when dozens of same-sex couples were legally married in the wake of Piazza’s decision. They said then that they wanted to wait until they could get a license in Faulkner County, where they’ve lived for nearly 30 years. Their salon, painted bright pink and with the words “Teach Tolerance” over the door, has long been one of the state’s most visible symbols for LGBT rights. They’ve organized the Gay Pride Parade in Conway since 2004.
The city has not always been welcoming.
“From that first parade when they spread manure, where they showed how bigoted and small they can be ― now that will never happen again,” Schenck said. “Like Robert said, I hope this is a day I will remember on my death bed.”
They plan to have a marriage in Conway very soon and then travel to New York for a couple of weeks.
They said they were not really expecting a decision until Monday, but sat close watching CNN early this morning, anyway, as they have for the past couple of weeks.
“And thank God that they did because I really haven’t been sleeping much,” Loyd said.