Over the course of the marriage equality movement, one key thing we’ve learned in state after state is that sharing our stories with others is critical. The single most powerful way to bring people to support civil marriage equality is by making the issue personal.
Marriage Equality USA recently launched “Getting to ‘I DO’: Our Journeys to Marriage Equality,” a collaborative project aimed at collecting and sharing a wide range of multimedia-rich stories about relationships, family, marriage, advocacy, and equality.
Ted shares, for example, the bittersweet story of how marriage equality came too late for him and Jack, his partner of more than 25 years. In 2009, Jack was diagnosed with cancer. Just days after a marriage equality lobby day in Albany that same year, Jack died. When the freedom to marry finally came to New York two years later, Ted—an ordained, former minister—noted his joy at having “the privilege of joining together the lives of two loving persons,” even though he and his own “beloved” were denied that opportunity.
Sveta shares her journey to receiving her marriage-based green card last year. She writes about a “surreal” interview with USCIS in 2010. “Why can’t you just go to Russia?” an immigration officer asked her, after she explained, “I would be in danger as a member of a persecuted minority, if I were to be separated from my U.S. citizen partner of over a decade and deported back to Kazakhstan.” She continued, recalling the incident: “My wife was in the same room, but was not allowed to speak…I was asked to strike out her name and information as my spouse from my application for asylum.” Sveta concluded, “The Defense of Marriage Act rendered us legal strangers.”
Such stories are as varied and unique as the LGBT community. Many of the “Getting to ‘I DO’” stories focus on the joy of marriage itself, or how the authors felt the day their states finally recognized the freedom to marry.
We also have touching stories from allies, like Reenie, an interfaith minister who writes about how a burgeoning friendship with a lesbian seminary classmate led to advocating for “same sex couples in their quest to be together.” Roger, a former Marine, shared a deeply personal story about his journey to support full equality for same-sex couples, and his regret that it took him so long to do so. Roger writes, “We don’t need to look backward for a chance to stand up for principles. Life isn’t about always being right—I was wrong for a long time—but about learning from mistakes and making amends.”
Every story is unique, and we never know which story will resonate with someone who is still unsure about marriage equality. By sharing your story today, you may be the change that helps someone finally get to “I do.” Browse our collection of “Getting to ‘I DO’” stories, and then please share your own journey to “I DO” with us.
By Thom Watson, MEUSA Social Media Manager and Project Lead, Getting to "I DO"
This article originally appeared in SF Bay Times, May 29, 2014: http://sfbaytimes.com/getting-to-i-do-sharing-stories-to-change-hearts-and-minds/
SHARE YOUR STORY TO CHANGE HEARTS & MINDS AROUND THE WORLD Waited years/decades to marry? Raising a family without access to the benefits and protections marriage offers? Straight but no longer narrow? MEUSA has launched its latest marriage equality story-sharing initiative in conjunction with the story-telling website Cowbird. Designed to collect and share multimedia-rich personal stories about relationships, family, marriage, advocacy, and equality in an online gallery, contributors will have an opportunity to share their personal marriage equality-related stories. “Sharing stories is one of the most powerful ways to sway more people into supporting marriage equality,” says MEUSA Executive Director Brian Silva. “We encourage potential participants to relay their dreams, ideals, and experiences with families, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and communities.”
One of the first stories to post was that of Ted Hayes and Jack Hayes. After 25 years together, Jack died shortly before marriage equality became a reality in New York. The post has been picked up by Upworthy and has been viewed over 32,000 times as well as receiving many “shares” and “likes” on multiple sites. The following guidelines outline the types of stories MEUSA hopes to gather:
- Personal journeys of same-sex couples and their relationships, children, and hopes and dreams for marriage
- Stories of our families, friends, neighbors, and communities as they’ve come to embrace and work towards marriage equality
- Stories of people who once opposed marriage equality but subsequently moved to a position of support
- Experiences as volunteers and advocates working towards marriage equality
It's easy to be part of Getting to ‘I Do’ and share your own story. Click on the image below or visit cowbird.com/join to create your free Cowbird account. Please write "Marriage Equality USA" in the You section when you sign up.
After you’ve created your account and logged in, please add your personal marriage equality story:
- Click the Tell a story link at the top right of the Cowbird home page
- Upload a photo, add audio and/or text
- Click the Saga icon button in the right column, and choose Marriage Equality from the list of Cowbird sagas that appear
To see what others have written or for ideas of what you can write, check out our current stories.