Marcus High School's Online Newspaper

The Marquee

Marcus High School's Online Newspaper

The Marquee

Marcus High School's Online Newspaper

The Marquee

Love in the limelight

Teacher becomes first in Denton with legal same-sex marriage

Whitney Hennen and Sara Bollinger were still unpacking from their Mexican honeymoon. They had just celebrated their wedding in Denton, wanting to show their love, even though it wouldn’t be recognized by the law. The pair turned to each other when they heard a voice from their TV that stunned them. Together, they took a seat on their small couch and raised the volume. The Supreme Court was announcing its decision to legalize same-sex marriage on Friday, June 26, 2015. 

People across the country wanted to jump at this opportunity — Whitney and Sara being among them since they just held their ceremony. The timing was purely coincidental but perfect. However, their excitement was put on hold when Denton County announced they would not be ready to issue licenses immediately.

All weekend, the couple anxiously waited in their apartment. Now that they had their chance, they had to take it. Finally, Sara stood up. The two locked eyes. They couldn’t wait any longer.

They woke up with the sun on Monday morning and Whitney put on a beloved blue and white striped dress. Sara buttoned up their navy blue shirt, took Whitney’s hand, and they walked out of their apartment for the last time as an “unmarried” couple. The pair rushed to the courthouse. Hand-in-hand, they went through the process, anticipating getting their marriage license.

The couple happily signed all of the necessary documents and left the courthouse only to be surprised by rows of flashing cameras in their faces. Reporters were lining up to get the same story from them, but the couple didn’t know why.

They realized they were the first legal same-sex marriage in all of Denton County. 




As a theater teacher, performance has always been an important aspect of Whitney Bollinger’s life. She grew up on stage as a dancer and was looking to expand her talents. 

One summer in college, Whitney’s dance teacher suggested she try out for a musical called “Pippin.” As a backup dancer, Whitney spent the rest of her summer working on this production and discovered a new path for her life. 

“Being in that musical, it totally changed my trajectory of what I wanted to do,” Whitney said. “After that, I was hooked.”

But it was a different musical that led her to the love of her life — Sara.

Whitney had been in many plays before, but “Chicago” would be life-changing. As part of the ensemble, she took on multiple roles to bring this play to life. A trained dancer, she leapt across the stage with the band playing the show’s famous jazzy tunes in the background.

She glanced over to the band on stage and caught the eye of someone playing the upright bass. The two made sure to find each other later off stage. 

At first, they just got to know each other better.

“We would sit down and have long conversations about what we enjoy,” Whitney said. “Just friends stuff.”

The pair spent most of their time together in Denton, which was home for both of them. They learned each other’s likes and dislikes, what they had in common and stories about their families. 

They frequented local coffee shops, like Jupiter House, and it became their spot. 

To everyone else, they looked like a couple of friends catching up over hot drinks. The coffee shop was filled with people, all of them unaware that a love story was unfolding. The two felt at ease with each other, surrounded by the artsy posters and creaky wooden tables. They shared coffees with little hearts made from creamer and conversations with little details that made the other infinitely more interested.

Each of these conversations brought them closer and led up to the big confession — they wanted to be more than friends.

On a series of dates, they’d spent hours at local restaurants. At the end of one of their first dates, Whitney tucked their Thai Ocha receipt away, knowing that she’d want to look back on this later. For Whitney, this was a new kind of relationship. It didn’t follow along with the heteronormative view she had for herself growing up. 

“When I met my now spouse, Sara,” Whitney says. “I was definitely like, ‘I am feeling feelings for this person.”

She says she was more interested in their conversations and how their relationship developed instead of who she envisioned she’d be attracted to. She kept her relationship a secret from her close friends and family during its initial stages. 

However, the secrecy didn’t last.

“My parents were just very in tune with my feelings,” Whitney said. “They know when things are going on.”

Whitney said it was scary, waiting to tell them. She understands the fear that comes with coming out and looking for acceptance from your family so they can learn and deal with these new emotions. However, her worries were alleviated when her family showered her with support for a relationship that was still deemed too controversial by much of the world.

“My parents have always been very open and accepting of others,” Whitney said. “I just feel lucky that I grew up that way.”

Bollinger watched her loved ones rally around her and become a kind of second family to Sara when they saw how happy the couple was together. Her sister, Francie Pavelek, says she enjoys seeing Whitney in this relationship. 

“They know each other really, really well,” Francie said. “They’re able to support each other, and they have a very honest relationship.”




The Bollingers had dated happily for five years. When the time came, they both knew. 

“We just decided, you know,” Whitney said.  “‘Let’s get married!’” 

The summer of 2014, the two got engaged. While their marriage wouldn’t be legalized yet, the couple wanted to fully commit in the biggest way possible. 

Their history together was in Denton, so the pair wanted their wedding and future to take place here too. The next summer, Whitney and Sara had a traditional wedding, and they brought their new kind of love into it. On the grounds of Texas Woman’s University, they walked onto the greenhouse patio where dozens of couples stood before them. The hot June sun made their joyful day brighter as they looked into each other’s eyes and said their vows. 

The newlyweds went off to their honeymoon and came back to make local history.




To this day, Whitney recalls their moments at the courthouse vividly.

“It was kind of a surreal experience,” Whitney said. “I remember thinking about so many people that worked and fought for this, for us.”

After the couple left the courthouse, their phones were buzzing nonstop with news stations trying to get a hold of them and visit their apartment.

Whitney watches her students complete an impromptu exercise. Having been married to her spouse for over seven years, she teaches her students how to have pride and be comfortable in themselves.

“I remember we ran home and cleaned our apartment really fast so that people could come,” Whitney said. “We call that day our 15 minutes of fame.”

Whitney’s best friend, Julie Pavelek, remembers being just as ecstatic about their accomplishment.

Together, Whitney and Sara crossed a milestone for the LGBTQ+ community.

“They really are a model for what a happy marriage can be,” Francie said. “I think that they’re a really good representation for their community.”

As a teacher, Whitney is also a huge role model for her students. She wants to represent her community well. 

Foster Carroll, her former student, looks up to the way Whitney carries herself. 

“I think it’s very powerful..that she can be herself and not care what people think,” Foster said. “It is a very big statement to make to people in high school.”

Whitney works to instill confidence in her students and create an environment where they are comfortable in themselves. 

“If you’re out, if you’re not, or if you are not sure…just always follow who you want to be,” Whitney said. “If I had not stayed true to myself, I would not have ended up where I am now.”

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About the Contributor
Raksha Jayakumar
Raksha Jayakumar, Managing Editor
Raksha (she/her) is excited for her second year on staff as Managing Editor! She is a huge swiftie, meaning she has good taste (reputation is top-tier). She loves everybody on staff and is super duper excited to work with them all. <3 

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