When same-sex marriage became legal in Iowa in April 2009, it took many by surprise. Iowa? Really? For Ed Reggi and Scott Emanuel of St. Louis, the decision in Varnum v. Brien inspired discussions about traveling north in order to legally marry in the new Midwest haven for marriage equality.

Their friends began talking, too. And acquaintances of friends were also chatting up the topic. Soon there was a bus ... and clergy and bureaucracy and media. To date, the couple have ferried 59 same-sex couples from the West End of St. Louis to Iowa City, Iowa, to tie the white knot.

On Aug. 13, the Show Me Marriage Equality Bus will make its fifth voyage, as the married pair of Emanuel and Reggi shepherd yet another group of fiancés to the Hawkeye State.

May 1, 2009, was the effort’s first chartered bus voyage. Seventeen couples made the trip, as documented in Cody Stokes’ short film Heartland Transport (heartlandtransportthemovie.com). The movie won Best Heartland Documentary Short at the Kansas City FilmFest in April 2010. Although most of the ridership on the Marriage Equality Bus has been drawn from the St. Louis area, Kansas City’s 10th District State Sen. Jolie Justus and her wife, Shonda Garrison, were married on that maiden trek.

From the beginning, it was important to the co-captains to include clergy members and houses of worship in the plans for the bus trips. Faith has been an important component in many of the couples’ journeys through their partnerships, and Reggi and Emanuel wanted to honor this collective faith by doing more than just pulling up to the Johnson County Administration Building in Iowa City and unloading a bunch of gay folks to fill out the requisite paperwork before a round of cold civil-marriage ceremonies. According to Reggi, on each trip they bring along four or five members of the clergy; many couples have been thankful for this and for the welcoming host church, the Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City.

Reggi notes that there is something different about being married. People perceive legally bound couples in a more profound way. The hearts and minds of neighbors and friends begin to warm. And another upshot is that, even though there is not universal recognition of these Iowa marriages, the commitments are acknowledged by many states, municipalities, employers and insurance companies. Reggi imagines a day when the Show Me Marriage Equality Bus will expand to include trips originating in Kansas City, Columbia and even Joplin.

So far, several couples are set to ride the Aug. 13 bus. The motor coach can accommodate up to 15 couples, clergy, wedding photographers and family members. Reggi and Emanuel hope to raise funds to cover half of the cost of the charter, so that each couple would owe only $50 for the trip and $35 for the marriage license. Go to showmenohate.chipin.com, if you would like to help.

For more information about the Show Me No Hate Marriage Equality Bus, go to showmenohate.com or contact Ed Reggi at ShowMeNoHate@gmail.com or 314-265-4756.

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