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HOBART | After a long wait, Vivian Austin-Castro went on vacation with her now-wife to Hawaii for a beautiful beach wedding at a time when the Aloha State still only offered civil unions.

Her wife, Felicia, had bought rings eight years earlier and had since waited to get married.

They were heartened when Indiana finally legalized same-sex marriage last year.

“Indiana struggled with it, and we thought it would never happen,” Austin-Castro said. “But we had a nice ceremony with a lot of friends volunteering to take pictures. It’s been a long journey for my wife and me. It’s been a lot of waiting and time and effort, from people both gay and not, so we could come to this point.”

She was one of dozens to gather Saturday in Hobart for a Valentine’s Day wedding bash celebrating the right of same-sex couples to wed in Indiana. The First Unitarian Church of Hobart and Freedom to Marry staged the annual event with the slogan “Standing on the side of love.”

Susan Fisher and Anna Cushman from Kalamazoo, Mich., wed in the evening after spending most of the day stuck in gridlocked traffic in whiteout conditions on the Indiana Toll Road.

While waiting for the couple to arrive, church members both gay and straight shared stories of what love meant to them and why they fought for equal rights for gay couples.

Connie Karras was never politically active but she was thrilled to marry her best friend last year in the Lake County Courthouse.

“We did it by ourselves with no witnesses and no ceremony,” she said. “It was bittersweet. I am elated that we can do this in the state of Indiana. Thank you to everyone who made that possible.”

Karras had been politically active in her 20s, but has since led a non-political life. She’s grateful to activists who helped end the state’s long-time ban on same-sex marriage.

“It’s been one of the most joyous days of my life, but our family is not happy for us. We’re working on that, one day at a time. Baby steps. But it was the happiest day of my life, and I’ve been happy every day after.”

Others voiced their support.

Patricia Churilla said she discovered two years out of high school that her best friend was gay. She first thought she didn’t even know anyone who was gay, then realized that she had all along.

“I thought I couldn’t turn my back on someone I knew since I was 12 and loved so much,” she said.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.