If you want to erode the public's trust in the legal system, making a court house an unsafe place to be, even during what's supposed to be a joyful occasion, is a great place to start. Just ask Alexander Parker and Krisha Schmick: They went to a courthouse in Pennsylvania, intent on getting married. The pair had known one another since high school and it seemed like the right time. There was just one problem – Alexander's skin was brown and the judge he and his bride were to stand before was a raging bigot.
According to Newsweek, when Parker and Schmick stood before Judge Elizabeth Beckley in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, instead of presiding over their wedding ceremony, she called Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents to check out Parker.
Parker, originally from Guatemala, was adopted by American parents and brought to the United States when he was eight months old – he is legally allowed to be in the country. He has the paperwork to prove it, too. But for some reason, maybe because, I dunno, HE WAS GETTING MARRIED, he forgot the official documents that proved his right to be in the country at home. All he had on him was a Guatemalan identification card. Court staff, believing for some reason that the document was a fake, contacted ICE to check Parker out.
On his wedding day, when he should have been exchanging vows, Parker was answering questions. Instead of having a ring slipped on his finger, he was forced to provide fingerprints. A honeymoon with his wife? Nah: ICE warned that if he could not prove that he was in the country legally, he'd be whisked away to a detention center.
As it turns out, ICE was able to verify that Parker was cool to be in the country. They apologized to him. Good enough! It gets better: once Judge Beckley was sure that Parker was allowed to be in the country, brown or not, she offered to continue with the wedding ceremony. Parker and Schmick, still traumatized by what had just happened to them, decided to accept: they'd had relatives come in from out of state to attend the wedding.
Now, you could argue that the judge was just doing her job: She didn't have any proof that Parker had the right to be in the country. As a representative of the state of Pennsylvania, she was obligated to do so.
Lemme tell you a story.
My partner and I just finished spending six months in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. We decided that, after a number of years together, we didn't just want to get married: we wanted to get Texas married. When we went to the county clerk's office to get our marriage certificate, we told the attending clerk that we were Canadian. He shrugged, congratulated us and told us to let them know which courthouse we were going to so that they could send over the required documents.
So, we did that.
When we went to the courthouse, she in her wedding dress and I in an embroidered black suit (remember: Texas married,) we met the Judge. He asked us where we were from. We told him we were from Canada. "Are you going back?" was his response. It wasn't a joke. It was definitely a serious question. Our answer, of course, was yes – we were returning to Canada at the end of March. There was no talk of not being allowed to get married there. No threat of being checked out by ICE or anyone else. Just our vows, happiness, and a great meal thereafter with a small group of family and friends.
There's no difference between the reasons that I, my wife, and the Parkers came to the courthouse. Alexander Parker and I have a lot in common: we were both born outside of the United States, looking to get married in an American court of law. I'd argue that Mr. Parker has more of a right to be in the United States than I do: He was adopted by Americans when he was a baby. I was just a long-term tourist.
But I'm white. So, no threats or fingerprinting for me.
Image: Allan Ajifo – https://www.flickr.com/photos/125992663@N02/14597585461/, CC BY 2.0, Link