Baby Owen reached his tiny hand across the counter, his blue eyes meeting Hinds County Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn's, as he wrapped his thumb around her wizened index finger.
Owen's mother, Andrea Sanders, held the 8-month-old, while his other mom, Becky Bickett, stood to their right holding his twin brother, Adrian.
The couple of 10 years had marched along with five other same-sex couples from their meeting place at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson to the Hinds County Courthouse to apply for marriage licenses. But that was March 25, 2014, and equal marriage rights for gay couples in Mississippi were more than a year away.
They had come as part of the "We Do Campaign," a series of direct actions reminiscent of Civil Rights-era demonstrations meant to highlight the human indignity of state bans on marriage rights.
The North Carolina-based Campaign for Southern Equality, or CSE, headed the project.
'A Punch in the Gut'
Bickett thought about how Dunn reminded her of her grandmother as she watched the woman in the black jacket babytalk and make googly eyes at her little boy. One of Dunn's employees was processing the marriage application at a desktop station nearby. The results came back: Becky and Andrea were not eligible.
"When the law changes, I'll change," Dunn told them, as if to soften the blow. It was one thing to know they could not get married, but another to officially hear it.
Becky Bickett recalled how that day felt in a recent interview with the Jackson Free Press. She had known Dunn's hands were tied, but it still felt like "a punch in the gut," she said on June 7.
"In that moment, it felt like somebody just took you out at the knees and told you that you don't matter," she said. "And that's heart-wrenching. You can't live life thinking you