A more perfect union

Technology teacher Tim Bjerke, husband one of first male couples to be married in Travis Countyring

On June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court ruled that same­-sex marriage in the United States is legal, graphic design teacher and Spectrum supervisor Tim Bjerke and his partner Peter Garcia were waiting in the Travis County courthouse with no thoughts of marriage on their minds. But when the person behind the desk told them that if they were there for marriage, they must go to a different room, they seized the opportunity.

“We knew the decision would be handed down, on that day, but we figured it would take a while for everybody to get in gear,” Bjerke said. “Travis County did it as soon as they possibly could.”

Mr. Bjerke and his partner were led into a special waiting room where they waited for hours as Travis County lawyers went over the ruling, making sure everything was ready to go. Once everything was cleared, they were brought in to get their license.

“Usually, as the clerk types stuff in, they share it with you so you see what’s going in, but, with all the cameras, they just had to turn the screen,” Bjerke said. “They couldn’t show it towards the press.”

The press was everywhere during this whole process, Bjerke said. Cameras were pressed up to the glass window on the door. They were watching as Bjerke and Garcia received their license. Any free moment they had was filled with reporters pressing up to them, firing questions from every angle, and trying to get a good shot of them.

Bjerke and Garcia were moved to a different location to see the judges. The first judge they went to simply excused them to get married right away, waiving the typical 72 -hour waiting period. Next, they were shepherded to to Judge Eric Sheppard, who married them.

“He had a poem he reads during marriages and some other sheets of things, really nice and supportive,” Bjerke said, “And he puts the certificate in there and delivers it. He treated us like human beings and that was just so good. He was a judge, he didn’t have to do anything, he could have just said ‘Whatever, you’re married, bye!’”

The couple had already been married in Vancouver in 2003, but once they could, they immediately married again because they wanted their marriage, and their marriage rights, recognized in America. Now that they are married in the States, they don’t have to carry proof of their previous marriage wherever they go, and they don’t have to fill out many legal documents when trying to get marriage benefits.

“We’re not just their ‘friend,’ we’re their spouse, so we have full rights to help and that’s a big thing,” Bjerke said, “I get to participate in every decision, health or whatever else.”

It’s a big step for the LGBT community, with one of McCallum’s teachers leading the charge. And he feels very strongly about the progress.

“It’s such an important thing to so many people, and even if it’s just a statement of your love, it doesn’t have to be religious,” Bjerke said, “just two people saying, ‘We love each other and we want to stay together.’”

And he’s been supported strongly. Not only by his friends and family, but people he doesn’t know. He has received congrats from people who recognize him from the news and love what he’s done.

“I don’t think that happens everywhere in the district,” Bjerke said. “I don’t think other schools are like that, where kids actually care about the teachers. I thought that was really cool, it made me feel really good.”

Mr. Bjerke teaches graphic design at McCallum, and sponsors Spectrum, McCallum’s gay-­straight alliance. He also runs a group for Social Anxiety and another for gender identification issues. So it’s completely in character that he and his husband became the first male same­-sex couple to be married in Travis County. It’s possible, Bjerke said that they were the first male same­-sex couple married in Texas.

Bjerke embraces the message that his experience sends to other people.

“I hope it’s like I​t Gets Better​ videos,” he said, “You can do this too! You can find someone and you can marry them and be together forever and nobody can pull you apart.”

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