October 20, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

One-time partners Kathy “Scout” Pettersen and Beverly Reicks share a home in Benson. As public opinion on same-sex marriage changed, they kept close tabs on the political debate. The morning of June 26, their lives changed. Pettersen was at The Bookworm, where she manages the children’s department; Reicks, National Safety Council, Nebraska president and CEO, was getting blood drawn at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

After hearing initial reports of the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, Reicks joined Pettersen at the bookstore. The pair drove to the courthouse as soon as the ruling was confirmed, and were the first couple to obtain a license in Douglas County. They opted for an impromptu civil ceremony in the courthouse surrounded by family, friends, and media.

“We were greeted just with an abundance of joy and happiness,” Reicks says. “It was just really cool.”

“The reception was really warm. It kind of made up for the disappointment I experienced in Nebraska in 2000,” Pettersen says, referring to voters passing Initiative 416, which prohibited same-sex unions.

Nebraska District Court Judge Joseph Battalion twice ruled the ban unconstitutional. A state appeal resulted in a stay, leaving gay couples in limbo.

County clerk Tom Cavanaugh, a friend of the couple, paid for their license. More friends witnessed the proceedings.

“We were just really honored so many people came through for us,” Pettersen says. “It was just really wonderful.”

“It was beyond what I ever imagined,” Reicks adds.

With the paperwork signed, chief deputy clerk Kathleen Hall nudged the pair to give the media a marriage to cover. Pettersen and Reicks obliged.

“I felt like I was in a whirlwind,” Pettersen recalls. Reicks says, “I felt like a celebrity.”

After basking in applause and cheers, the newlyweds answered reporters’ questions. Congratulations continued outside. The couple celebrated with friends and family at La Buvette and Le Bouillon.

Reasons to celebrate extended to finally being accorded rights long enjoyed by opposite sex couples. Pettersen has an adopted daughter, Mia, and Reicks says, “Now she’s truly my step-daughter.” Recently filling out joint documents, Pettersen says, “I checked the married box for the first time without any hesitation or doubt. That was a very big deal to me. I couldn’t stop smiling it felt so good.”

“We reaped the benefits of their hard work,” Pettersen says. “I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. I do feel like we’re a part of history.”

Contrary to opponents’ fears, Reicks says, “The world did not come to an end because some gay and lesbian couples got married.”

Pettersen says, “It just all proves, ‘love wins.’ “ Encounter

l-r: Kathy "Scout" Petersen and Beverly Reicks

l-r: Kathy “Scout” Petersen and Beverly Reicks

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