My mother, who is Chinese American, was only able to marry my father, who is English and Irish American, because in 1948 the California Supreme Court became the first state supreme court in the nation to overturn a ban on interracial couples marrying. My mother still remembers the day when one of her friends in the Chinese Students Club at U.C. Berkeley had to leave the state to marry her white fiancée a few years before the Court’s decision. My mom's friend literally had to run from the law to marry the person she loved, simply because they were of different races.
In its historic 1948 decision, Perez v. Sharp, the California Supreme Court held that each citizen’s fundamental constitutional right to marry was really no right at all, unless it meant the freedom to “marry the person of one’s choice.” My parents married in the International House at Berkeley, the very same place they'd met. But as they moved to other states, they found that each state’s laws treated their marriage differently simply because of their races. While looking for a house in Missouri, they learned that Missouri law prohibited marriage between whites and “negroes” or “Mongolians,” the term then used for most Asian Americans.
When I was growing up, my parents didn't discuss these discriminatory laws over the dinner table. But it wasn’t until 1967 that the US Supreme Court overturned all such laws nationwide in the landmark Loving v. Virginia case. The court declared marriage is one of the “basic rights of man.”
My mother, John, and I flew to Washington, DC together as a family for events commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Loving decision. My mother spoke out at the Capitol for the rights of all loving couples to wed, including her own son and son-in-law. Mildred Loving, who brought the historic lawsuit before the United States Supreme Court, stated that “I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry.”
When John and I were able to legally marry in 2008, surrounded by our family and friends, it was a dream come true. As we exchanged vows and were pronounced spouses for life, we felt that for the first time in our lives that our government was treating us equally under the law, and treating our relationship with full dignity and respect. The day was so transformative that we have committed to do everything we can to secure the freedom to marry for all.
Having my mom and dad there beside us, witnessing the next generation in our family achieving marriage equality, was the best wedding gift of all. Marriage equality is a family tradition.
Stuart Gaffney is the MEUSA Communications Director, and his husband John Lewis is the MEUSA Director of Legal & Policy.
The photo displayed is from Stuart and John's legal wedding in June 2013, following the SOCTUS decision that upheld a lower court's ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, thus renewing marriage equality in California. The couple is shown here with their respective parents in the rotunda of San Francisco City Hall.
I never thought marrying Maggie would set us on the path to be one of the faces for Marriage Equality outside of our circles. Sure, we experienced fear & a sense of disappointment that people were attacking us personally & OUR family after Prop 8 was passed a few days after we married 1 Nov 2008. We had some anxiety as we awaited the decision from the CA State Supreme Court to continue to recognize our marriage & the marriage of the other 18,000 same sex couples who married during the 142 days it was legal. We had discussions, debates & arguments with some family members & members of our communities as we wanted to make sure ALL Californians had the same rights & responsibilities of marriage. But we otherwise continued to live our lives, love each other, & be active in communities we loved. We were just like any other newlywed couple.
I received a phone call from my doctor a few months after our nuptials. Some abnormal lesions were discovered in my brain during an MRI. After more tests, more evaluations, 2 spinal taps, dozens of neurological visits & a trip to the ER 11 hrs before a good friend's wedding, we had confirmation. This was MS. It was determined to be caused by my military service. MS robs people of movement, & can affect any part daily life, from speech to vision, balance to memory, loss of motor function to loss of independence. It affects the brain & Central Nervous System. There is no cure.
There is only medication to slow down the disease's progression. And I was scared, because having this disease brought up what I saw my Mom go through as she fought MS for 20yrs. It also reminded me of how my stepfather took care of Mom when she started going downhill, & how my Mom took care of him in life & after she died at 51 because they were married. My Pop is still benefiting from my Mom's pension, Social Security benefits, & health insurance because they were married to each other.
Like my Mom, I wanted to make sure I had my end of life matters in order so Maggie would be provided for when something happened to me. That sounds sobering for most 38 yr olds, but I had to do this a few times when I was in the Army from the time I was 19 until I was 30. As a disabled veteran, I knew that my wife would be eligible for benefits I earned because of my military service. I wanted Maggie buried with me in a Veteran's Cemetery when the time came. But I found out that if something happened to me, my wife wouldn't be recognized as such by the country I fought to defend. While I was alive, & even in death, the Defense of Marriage Act would deny her the VA benefits any heterosexual spouse of a veteran receives. My wife couldn't be buried with me at any Veterans Cemetery, even here in California, because they took federal monies to help with the Cemetery. They had to follow federal law.
I was angry. Really, we couldn't be buried together?! It's not like the neighbors are going to walk out, or people who come to pay their respects to their loved ones are going to boycott-everyone's DEAD! Why should this even matter? Maggie was going to be taking care of me as this disease progressed, & making sure she had the same benefits as any other spouse was the least I could do for her. I had to fight for her because she is the best thing that's happened to me. And she deserves everything I can give her.
It was time to funnel my anger to make a change. With the initial help from another Army Veteran named Wendi, I asked the VA to recognize my wife as my dependent. It was the fastest denial letter I had ever received or heard of. Two weeks after I sent my request, it was denied. A month after that, I appealed that decision. It was denied again, & the VA asked who would be representing me as my legal counsel if I wanted to continue this fight. I took this as a challenge, & got a civil rights powerhouse stand up for our family.
With the help of Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) & WilmerHale, we filed a federal lawsuit against section 3 of DOMA & Title 38 of the VA so my wife would be treated as any other married spouse of a disabled veteran would on 1 February 2012. We were taken aback when we actually saw our lawsuit, "Cooper-Harris vs USA". We shared our story with the news, media, social networks why marriage mattered, why it made no sense to treat our marriage differently than any other marriage because we are 2 women. And our family & friends rallied around us, sharing our story & why they supported our fight. If we had to be the face of this inequity to get the conversation started & get things changed, so be it.
Our lawsuit ended about a month after the SCOTUS decision on Edie Windsor's case [July 2013]. The US District Court ruled that the VA had to treat my wife as my dependent since section 3 of DOMA was ruled unconstitutional 29 August 2013. Attorney General Eric Holder cited our case along with the SCOTUS decision on Windsor as reason they would not continue to uphold Title 38's definition of spouse for veterans in same sex marriage in a letter to Congress in September 2013. The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) of the House of Representatives cited our case as dropping their defending DOMA in federal court. And we finally got the letter from the VA February 2014, 2yrs after we started this fight, that officially recognizes Maggie as my wife.
I know we still have a ways to go. Other veterans in same sex marriages living in non marriage equality states are in limbo as the Dept of Justice & VA work out how to provide benefits, since the VA is still going by where the couple resides instead of where the marriage took place for VA benefits. We still have 30+ US States that deny marriage to same sex couples.
Our story is one of many. And the more that our stories are heard, the more our families will benefit. It's about the love we share, the love I have for my fellow veterans, & the love I have for this country. Because we all are part of this larger family, & we are here to help one another.
Maggie and Tracey Cooper-Harris reside in Southern, California, where they have both served as active and effective advocates for marriage equality. We acknowledge and thank Tracey for her service to our country.
The story of Valerie, Stephanie, and their children
Meet Valerie and Stephanie LaBonte of Troy, Alabama through conversations with them both before and after the federal district court in Alabama held that the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples was unconstitutional. Marriage equality coming to Alabama has enabled Valerie and Stephanie’s family finally to be able to live together as a family.
29 January 29 2014 - Alabama State Law Still Bans Same-Sex Couples From Marriage
Valerie LaBonte and Stephanie Johnson
Valerie: Stephanie and I live in the small town of Troy, Alabama in Pike County which is in the southern part of the state. It’s a very conservative part of Alabama. We met in 2010 and fell in love soon thereafter. But because we couldn’t get married in Alabama, we had to go to New York City to get married in 2013. Getting married was amazing. And it was the first time either of us had been to New York.
Stephanie: Our wedding was a profound experience for us – being able to unite together in love and commit ourselves legally to one another. We were each so excited to have found and married the person we wanted to spend the rest of our life with. We got married at the courthouse in Manhattan, and we found it overwhelming how affirmed and accepted we felt as a lesbian couple by all the city officials and everyone else there. However, we were also saddened that none of our family and friends, except for a dear friend from Alabama who had moved to New Jersey, were able be there to share the joy with us because it was so far away. And a cloud hung over us. We would be returning to our home state that would not recognize our marriage.
Valerie: Stephanie and I are raising four children together. We each were married to men previously, and we each have two children from those marriages. My two children have a wonderful relationship with Stephanie. They’ve known Stephanie for over four years and they love her. The only problem is on Mother’s Day they have so much stuff to make!
Stephanie: Unfortunately, my twin boys who I bring to our family don’t even know that Valerie and I love each other, are together, and are married -- because Alabama refuses to recognize us as married. The joint custody arrangement I have with my former husband contains what’s called a “paramour” clause, which states the following:
“Neither party shall have a person of romantic interest to whom the party is not married staying overnight while the children are in their custody or control. A violation of these provisions shall lead to forfeiture of their rights.”
The paramour clause doesn’t cause any problems for my former husband because he can marry another woman. However, Alabama law does not recognize my marriage to Valerie. Therefore, Valerie and I cannot stay together under one roof when I have the kids. Even though we’re legally married, we have to maintain two separate households. We have not even told my two boys that we are married because we fear that my former husband could go to court to challenge my custody given Alabama’s discriminatory law. The cost of maintaining two separate households with two separate rents adds up quickly, but the hardest part truly comes from my boys not knowing we are a family, that they are completely oblivious to any love between Valerie and me, and they are missing out on a huge part of my life. I struggle daily with teaching my boys to embrace the differences in others and to be honest, all while I am hiding who I truly am and who I love from them.
Valerie: The situation is very painful for all of us. One time, I came over to Stephanie’s house to pick up our vacuum cleaner, and one of her sons asked me “What are you doing here?” First, I was upset with him, but I reminded myself quickly that he did not understand who I was – that I was married to their mom and I was their stepmother. I have helped the boys with their homework and participated in their discipline, but they did not respect me as a parent – they just wonder why their mom’s friend is doing this. I want to tell them I’m doing things for them because I love them as one of their moms, but I can’t and it really hurts.
Stephanie: Valerie and I are really active in our church, and we’re well respected at our jobs and in other ways. I work in internal staffing for an internet technology firm, as well as run a portion of our nationwide college hire program. Valerie works for the same company in internal and external recruiting. Valerie is a veteran of the Iraq War, having served a year at Al Asad Air Base in 2003-2004, while also serving on missions through both Fallujah and Baghdad. I am the treasurer and fundraising chair for the Pike County Boys and Girls Club, and I am also on their board of directors. We also designed and volunteer at our church’s monthly food ministry that donates literally over a ton of food to local families in need every month. Yet the state of Alabama won’t respect us as the married couple we are and prohibits us and our four children from being a family.
9 February 2015 – Update - Marriage Equality Comes to Alabama
Valerie and Stephanie LaBonte
Valerie and Stephanie: We are indescribably overjoyed at the Supreme Court's decision to deny the stay and our marriage is now recognized in Alabama!
Valerie: Today, we filed with the state as a married couple to have Stephanie’s last name changed to mine so that we will share a family name, LaBonte. It's such a relief to finally feel like the law is on our side. Now we feel more secure knowing that the law recognizes us as a family and that Stephanie can't lose custody of her boys just because of our relationship.”
21 February 2015 – Update
Valerie and Stephanie LaBonte
Valerie: A few days ago, we told Stephanie’s boys that we are married, and they had no problem receiving the news and were happy to learn that we were married. We are so happy and grateful that Stephanie’s boys finally know we are a family. We’ll finally be able to live under one roof together. We’ll be able to do all the things that other families take for granted.
Stephanie: I also had coffee with my former husband a few days ago. He told me that he understood and respected the ruling from the court and acknowledged that Valerie and I are married. He said he would do nothing to get in the way of us living together as one household. We also talked about how we would handle talking to the kids when the subject of my marriage to Valerie came up. We agreed that we would tell them that he and I believed different things about who should be able to marry, but above all we agreed that we would never say anything negative about each other to our children.
4 March 2015 - Update - Alabama Supreme Court upholds state ban on marriage for same-sex couples and orders Probate Judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples
Valerie and Stephanie LaBonte
Valerie: We are really upset by the Alabama Supreme Court's decision yesterday. We are so thankful we are already married, but we certainly don’t feel the same security we felt on February 9th. It was very short-lived. We’re so frustrated at the amount of confusion the decision is going to cause within the state. Just once we would like to wake up and not feel like the very foundation of our family, that we’ve now been permitted to build, could crumble at any moment.
A ruling from SCOTUS will make things much better here, but people who are against equality are already pushing a bill that would allow a lot of people to discriminate based on sexual orientation. We will keep standing up for our family and with other LGBT people.
PHOTO CREDITS: Couple photo was taken by couples' friend in Manhattan during their wedding week. Stephanie is on the left, Valerie on the right.
My 89-year-old dad passed away last week. He was a marvelous person – and an intrepid love warrior throughout his life. When I was born in 1958, my dad told my mother that he would like to be the one who got up in the middle of the night to feed me. My mother agreed, and my dad always described our time together during those feedings as sheer joy. “We were having so much fun that you didn’t want to go back to sleep, and neither did I.”
Many years later, Stuart and I married at San Francisco City Hall on February 12, 2004, and I called my parents in Kansas City that evening to let them know. Before I could get a word out, my dad interrupted, exclaiming: “We saw what was happening in San Francisco on the news. Were you there? Did you get married?!” Just a few weeks before, my dad had heard then-President George Bush’s anti-gay pronouncements in the 2004 State of Union address, and I remember him telling me that it felt as if the President of the United States had attacked our family before the nation.
I came out to my parents back in the early 1980s. In many ways, I had it very easy: my dad was then a professor of counseling psychology with semi-out colleagues; and my mother, also a university professor, had hung out in gay bars in Amsterdam with her gay friends in the 1950s. Despite my parents’ experience and intellectual understanding, my coming out process, however, presented challenges for them emotionally. Over time, they overcame them, embraced Stuart and other friends, and for years sent me clippings of every gay-related article they saw in the newspaper. They even apologized to me for failing to be sensitive to what I had experienced growing up and asked my forgiveness.
My mother had passed away by the time Stuart and I were able to wed legally in June 2008, but my dad proudly attended the celebration at City Hall. Last March, I visited my dad at his retirement community in Chicago before going to Washington, DC, for the Supreme Court hearings in the marriage equality cases. My dad had told all his friends and many staff all about it, and that I had co-authored an amicus brief before the Court. When I arrived, marriage equality and LGBT rights seemed to be the talk of the community. His friends now refer to Stuart as my husband.
The Lewis family came to America from Wales in the late 17th century to escape religious persecution as Quakers. When they arrived, they started a book in which they wrote down every member of the family born in the New World. My dad has the book today. In one of our last conversations, he asked me to get the book and to make sure that Stuart’s name was included in it. It is. My dad, born a kind, joyful, caring, and thoughtful spirit, was a love warrior to the end.
By MEUSA Director of Legal & Policy John Lewis
This article originally appeared in SF Bay Times, February 20, 2014: http://sfbaytimes.com/my-dad-an-intrepid-love-warrior/
When Jeff and I married this past September, we expected that we would recognize a difference in our lives and in our relationship after tying the knot.
There are tangible differences, of course, as with our health insurance coverage and taxation. The differences most often have been subtler, but they clearly exist. Marriage matters.
Even in silly little ways we notice it. We delight in referring to each other as “husband,” and it feels more truly descriptive and honest to do so now. And, though we’d been living together a decade before our marriage, and had a registered domestic partnership for nearly half that time, we recently began only half-jokingly commemorating “our firsts,” though they were firsts only in a qualified sense: our first Thanksgiving “as a married couple,” our first Christmas “as husbands,” our first New Year “as legal spouses.”
What I don’t think we fully expected, though, was just how much our marriage meant to other people, and how it would change the way even our friends and families relate to and about us. Those changes run the gamut from trivial to significant. A great many of our friends, for example, have congratulated us on our first Christmas as a married couple.
More subtly, friends and family members who treated us with respect before we were married, who saw us as a committed couple even without a license, nevertheless seem to see and speak of us differently now. Our mothers provide perhaps the most poignant examples. Early in December, Jeff introduced me at a party to an old friend of his mother’s as his husband. Jeff’s mom jumped right in and said, “Yes, I now have two sons.” Our Christmas card from her reflected the same sentiment, as she had used a pen to change the card’s pre-printed “My Son” to read “My Sons.” Similarly, my mother addressed Jeff’s Christmas card this year to “My Son-in-Law.”
Friends and family who rarely, if ever, intruded into the particulars of our relationship now ask when or if we’re planning to have kids; yep, just like opposite-sex couples, that’s now the expectation for what follows marriage. My mother told my nephew’s new fiancées that they have Jeff as an example of how to survive marrying into my loud, overwhelming, overly protective family, and how to deal with one’s in-laws.
Marriages matter, not just for spouses, but for their families and indeed for the larger society in which they live and move. When we marry, our families, friends, and neighbors more clearly understand – and, what’s most troubling to our opponents, increasingly respect and embrace – that families, communities, and societies benefit, and are strengthened, when marriage makes possible the time-honored and express relationship not just with your daughter and son-in-law, but with your son and son-in-law, too.
Mothers-in-law may be fodder for comedians, but understanding that Jeff’s mom is my honest-to-goodness mother-in-law – and that she believes it, too – is about as serious as it gets.
By MEUSA Social Media Director Thom Watson
As I stood in line in hopes of receiving my Utah State marriage license, I did not feel excited, hopeful, or joyful. In fact, I felt pathetic, foolish, and less than. As I turned to look at the beautiful woman standing next to me, the woman who has been standing by my side for the last 27 years, I felt a sense of overwhelming sadness. She—we—deserved better than this. Better than standing in a line in the freezing cold hoping a door would open both literally and figuratively. Our love, our union, our struggles, our family deserved better than desperately standing in the freezing cold awaiting doors to open at the Weber County Clerk’s Office in Ogden, Utah. We had been up early with the hope of counties opening their doors and allowing us to receive a marriage license. We had driven around for hours from county to county trying to find the one government office that possessed the courage to follow the court order and issue marriage licenses to its gay and lesbian citizens. We now stood in line with hundreds of people with a small glimmer of hope and yet, my heart and soul felt so very heavy.
My thoughts were suddenly jolted as the phone in my pocket began to ring. I looked at the caller ID and answered the phone, “Hi baby.”
“Hi Mom. Ya’ll getting married?”
“Well son, we are in the line waiting.” I didn’t want to say more as the excitement in his voice was so innocent and sweet; yet in my head I felt those doors were never going to open. His voice pulled me back to the phone.
“I’m hungry,” he said. These are two very familiar words, which we hear multiple times on a daily basis. As an 18 year old boy, his mind was focused on only a few needs.
“Ok,” I said. “Are your sister and brother-in-law on their way to the house?”
“Yes,” he answered. “They are on their way.”
“Ok, son. Tell her to pick up something on her way or make yourself a sandwich.”
“Ok mom, love ya.” “Love you buddy,” I replied. “See ya soon.”
As I placed the phone back in my pocket, an overwhelming sense of disappointment and a familiar despair began to enter my thoughts. Being an attorney and a Mormon, I knew my attempt to gain a marriage license in the State of Utah would be futile. I would once again have to explain to our children that while God loved our family, there are still people here on Earth who do not understand His love and compassion. So often we are asked, “Why do you live in Utah?” That answer is simple: Utah is our home. We have lived in the south, too. I am Mormon while Brenda, my partner of 27 years, is Catholic. We have no spiritual home, as our religions remain firm in their beliefs denying rights to their gay members. The truth is—we love Utah. We love the culture. We love the people. We don’t drink; we don’t smoke, and we are raising kids. We love raising our kids in Utah. We fit in quite nicely except for one small detail—we happen to be two women in love with each other.
My toes are freezing as I stand in this long line. To distract myself from the elements, my thoughts travel back to less than 30 days ago when I received a call from our daughter.
“Hey baby girl. How’s your day?”
“Good,” she says. “Bryce and I just got our marriage license!”
“Glad ya’ll finally got your license,” I express. “The wedding is only two days away. Did it take you long to get it?”
“Nope—just walked right in,” she says. “Had to drive all the way to Provo though because the Draper office was closed—but there was no line.”
At this point, there were several hundred people waiting in our line. How ironic that less than 30 days ago we were celebrating the legal marriage of our daughter. My thoughts quickly go back to last month when my partner and I proudly walked our daughter down the aisle to marry. There were close to 400 guests. We walked her to the front of the room, and a Mormon Bishop married her. The ceremony was beautiful.
Once again, I am brought back to the present moment as my phone rings again.
“Hey baby girl.”
“Are ya’ll almost done? We are here at the house to make Christmas cookies like we planned.”
“Well babe,” I say. “This is taking a bit longer. Can you tell your cousins that it will be later in the day before we get back to make cookies?”
“Ok,” she answers, “but hurry. Love you.”
“I love you, too. See ya soon.”
Now my thoughts are a bit frustrated. We had planned to make Christmas cookies and treats with my sisters, nieces, and nephews—all of whom are Mormon (which is irrelevant, but thought you all should know). I am upset that chasing a marriage license has taken away our family time together—time we cannot get back. This is not fair and is wrong in so many ways. There is a rustle in the crowd as the Weber County door opens and cheers erupt. I quickly make my way to the front of the line to hear the announcement. The cheers turn to moans as it is announced the clerk cannot let us in.
Humiliated, I grab Brenda’s hand and say “Let’s go.” On the long drive back home, we discuss the legal significance of Judge Robert Shelby’s ruling and contemplate the behind-the-scenes scenario that must be taking place with the government leaders and of course “the church” leaders, AKA, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints." As silence replaces our words, my mind once again begins to wander. I think about the legal argument the state presented in denying same-sex couples the right to marry. The best interest of children always becomes relevant. The state argued being raised by a father and mother is the optimal situation in producing well-adjusted children.
Who did that study? No one has ever contacted us to be part of a study. No one has evaluated our two straight children—whom, of course, their moms think are amazing. Ok, my biased thoughts aside—our kids—a girl and a boy, should be judged on their own merits. Our straight daughter just married an amazing man and is in her final year of college as a biochemistry major. She is beautiful from the inside out. She is smart, caring, loving, and has a great sense of humor. Our son is kind, smart, funny, and an incredible athlete who has received an offer to play collegiate baseball. They are really good kids based on the standards of society and both of them are straight.
I, on the other hand, was raised by one male and one female; both straight. In fact, my father was a Mormon Bishop, Stake President, and Mission President. Brenda was raised by one male and one female; both straight, who are Catholic. We were raised in the optimal situation according to the state, but both of us turned out gay. So if being gay is "bad"—an abomination, and allowing gay people to marry will destroy marriage and society, then producing gay children must be considered bad and undesirable. Accordingly, our parents failed the state test. If the rationale of the state’s arguments was to be applied to Brenda and me, and recognizing our union produced two well-adjusted straight children, then we should be allowed to marry. Our parents should have been forced to divorce. Certainly producing gay children from a straight marriage is a detriment to society and traditional marriage, right?
Legal marriages should be defined as a union between two loving and committing adults who wish to share legally protected state and federal rights. Legal marriage should remain about legal rights—not religious definitions. The constitution unequivocally protects the right to freedom of religion and yet it is very clear that the separation of church and state is an intricate part in producing a democratic state of the union. While marriage is a spiritual act in religion, it is a legal act in governing. The government must provide all legal rights and protection under the law to all people equally. Religions do now and can continue to deny members rights based upon their beliefs. Religions remain divided on the definition of marriage and treatment of their gay members and that is perfectly within their rights to do so. The government should provide one legal definition of marriage that applies to all citizens equally. It is their duty to do so.
Let’s be honest here. My life has been way more difficult having been gay than my children’s lives have been. I have been faced with trials and obstacles that I never thought possible to overcome. I spent thousands of hours of counsel with church leaders; thousands of hours in prayer and nothing worked—nothing made me straight. I even joined the God Squad and Fellowship of Christian Athletes and got "saved" at my friend’s southern church. I tried everything to become straight to no avail. Alternatively, my children who are a product of a gay relationship are straight and have it much easier than we ever did. So suffice it to say that in this scenario, the best interest of the children was to be raised by a gay couple. Accordingly, Brenda and I should be married as we have produced straight, well-adjusted children.
The result of this rationale is absurd as I hope everyone can see this. While the government, the state, and the courts determine the fate of our access to equal protection and legal rights, please include our children in your studies. Please include all the gay children who were produced by straight religious parents to determine and define legal marriage. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech remain in place to protect the views of those religions and people who consider homosexual acts and people as an abomination. It provides them the rationale to deny my legal right to marry the person I love. I choose to be judged by my God only. I choose to live in a country where I know my leaders will protect my legal rights and provide me equal protection under the laws of this great nation.
My heart is heavy, and I am tired. I can no longer remain silent on this issue. I can no longer stand to hear that children are better off being raised by a man and a woman. The studies undeniably show children who are raised by loving, supportive parents—regardless of their gender or sexual orientation—are well-adjusted children. Our children are proof. Moreover, the fact that I am gay is not a result of my environment as five of the six siblings raised by my parents are straight. I was created from the same DNA and the same God and I am gay. God created me just as He did my brother and sisters. God does not create mistakes, and I am not a mistake. I am not a product of a broken home. I am a product of two amazing, loving parents who believe in God, the Bible, morals and standards, and who raised me to believe the same. They did not fail by producing me.
Brenda and I have now raised two children with those same standards and beliefs. We just had to do it on our own and without the loving support of a religious institution and congregation can provide. We never found a home or felt welcome in our place of worship so we had to teach our children that they are children of God who are loved and are to serve Him and honor Him and our family name. We have never been legally recognized so we had to tell our children that our relationship and our family are valid and real.
I have always known in my heart and head there would come a time when we would find legal recognition and spiritual acceptance. It is time. The time is now. We can wait no more. And, thankfully, we succeeded in exchanging our vows on December 23, just in time for Christmas.
By Sally Farrar