Couple celebrate anniversary of legal victory

Rebecca Novak and Achsa Novak read to their daughter Teagan on Thursday, May 21, 2015 in their home.
Rebecca Novak and Achsa Novak read to their daughter Teagan on Thursday, May 21, 2015 in their home. CDT photo

One year ago, Rebecca Bush and Ashca Novak were the first same-sex couple to walk through the doors of the Centre County Register of Wills Office and walk out with a license to join their lives.

One year later, the Novaks are a legal family in every way, with a toddler who loves to give hugs, three very excited dogs and two women that love being together and building a future.

It has been quite a year.

When they got their license last year, they already had a wedding planned for three months later. But in an uncertain climate where there were questions about the law changing or appeals being filed, the couple didn’t want to take any chances.

Three days later, after the legal waiting period was up, they walked into District Judge Stephen Lachman’s office and were legally joined in matrimony.

But ask them when they got married and they ask “Which time?” They don’t really count the first one.

Instead, they focus on the August day where Bush wore a beautiful white dress and Novak dressed in black, their 10-month-old daughter Teagan was carried in like a princess and the people they loved were there in a refurbished barn not far from their Julian home as they made their promises to be together forever.

“It was very emotional,” Rebecca Novak said.

For Achsa Novak, it was a day she never thought she would see. As a young girl, accepting her sexuality, she said she thought she would have to settle for a life that didn’t include a family, at least not one she could have openly. But when she and Bush found each other, and later when Teagan was born, having the legal protections other spouses and parents do became very important.

“I just care that my family is safe and protected,” she said.

On one wall in their home, the front page of the Centre Daily Times, with their pictures from the day they got that license, hangs in a frame. On the other side of the couch is another frame, this one with the adoption paper that makes Achsa Novak legally Teagan’s mother just like Rebecca, her biological mom.

And she thinks it’s sad that for some, the gender of the parents is more important than the emotion in the home.

“If there are two people who love a child, there shouldn’t be a difference,” Achsa Novak said.

But now all of the family is covered on her health insurance. There is no question about who will receive her life insurance policy. If one of the women gets sick, the other will be able to help make decisions. Those are just a few of the simple things that straight couples might not think about, but the Novaks have had to wait to achieve.

It is not something they take for granted.

“The comment we got the most from people at the wedding was ‘Oh my God, you guys just look so happy and in love,’” Achsa Novak said. There may have been two brides, but there were no bridezillas in a wedding where no one was worried about the little things when just getting to the big moment was the prize.

Today, the fight for same-sex rights isn’t over. Achsa Novak said couples still face plenty of discrimination in the workplace.

“You can get fired just for having your wedding picture on your desk,” she said, happy that she works someplace where that doesn’t happen. “People just need to come into things with an open mind.”

In the Novak house, it’s more about open hearts, as Teagan runs back and forth, getting cuddles from one mom and climbing on the other.

That is the best part for Rebecca. It isn’t about being first, or about breaking ground. That was never the goal. She has had a great year just being Achsa’s wife and Teagan’s mom. Just like any other new bride.