Married Couples On What Marriage Equality Means To Them

Here are nine gay and lesbian couples on how the upcoming Supreme Court decisions regarding DOMA and Proposition 8 could impact their lives.

1. ShaDonna Jackson and Lakisha Smith

I didn’t realize the devastating impacts DOMA would have until its effects showed up in our home and in our family. Several years ago, ShaDonna and I were 10 days away from moving into our new home when she broke her ankle. I have been an employee of the federal government since I was 16 years old; I’m 30 now. Regardless of my length of service or commitment, DOMA prohibited my employer from extending a return of loyalty to me by providing me the benefit of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). I was not able to request time off under FMLA to be at home to care for her.

Imagine the stress of having a new home, with a house full of unpacked boxes, and having to leave your partner alone because she’s not considered “family.” ShaDonna and I are getting married next year, and we are proud residents of Maryland, where same-sex marriage is now legal and recognized. With marriage, there are many unforeseeable circumstances that arise, like becoming ill, hurt, or unemployed.

However, if DOMA was overturned, I know that as a federal employee I would have the legal ability to care for my family. If ShaDonna was hurt, my employer would recognize my need to be there for her. If I wanted or needed to, I would be able to extend health benefits to her and any of the children we plan for together in marriage, even if I don’t physically have them. If I departed life before ShaDonna, she wouldn’t be taxed on the estate we built together. Upon the repeal of DOMA, our family and others like ours would be recognized, protected, and cared for!

Read more about ShaDonna and Lakisha here.

3. Bryan Borland and Seth Pennington

We were legally married at Boston City Hall on March 8. We live in Arkansas, where recognition of our marriage is barred by the state constitution and by DOMA. In Massachusetts, we were both genuinely surprised by the sincere, empathic, and deeply felt well wishes of strangers, from heterosexual couples we met at City Hall to city staff to security officers at the airport. They didn’t see us as homosexual. They saw us as a couple in love. They saw us as a new family. They saw us as something to be celebrated. That’s not to say there aren’t people like that in Arkansas, or Georgia, or Tennessee. But when state and federal laws designate that we are different, that our marriage should be banned, that our family and commitment to one another requires defense against — smiles from strangers are something we do not take for granted.

The night before our vows, we were walking through the snow and stopped at Old South Church for a brief reprieve from the cold. Arm in arm, we stepped into the sanctuary, and as we started down the aisle, a string quartet there to accompany a choir began warming up by playing the wedding march. We had our walk down the aisle. We were right where we were supposed to be right when we were supposed to be there. Just like now. This moment in history. We are right where we are supposed to be.

5. Camila Cano and Abby Isaacs

We met and got married in New York City last year, but when Camila’s student visa expired, we were forced to leave the country to stay together. We had to put our lives on hold — leave our jobs, friends, and family.

We now live in Colombia (Camila’s native country), where Abby was able to get a partner residency and we can be together. Even though we were not born there, we both agree that New York City is our home and is the place we wish to build our family, and we can’t help but feel like we have been exiled. If DOMA was overturned, we would be able to return to our home and reunite with our friends and family as well as resume our careers.

7. Cassandra Herion Moore and Ashley Moore

My wife and I feel marriage equality is extremely important. Living in the state of North Carolina, which just last year approved an amendment to ban same-sex marriage, we are currently facing many issues about our marriage. My wife is my partner and soulmate who stole my heart 10 years ago, so this past January we flew to NYC and got married. It was the most wonderful day of my life! The entire experience was so magical!

But now we are back in the reality of living in a state where my wife and I are forced to claim we are single when we file taxes and pay insurance (and consequently being punished financially), where we have to defend the family and household we are creating, where I have to go through the court system and fight costly legal battles in order to hopefully be able to carry my wife’s name (which just happens to be my legal married name in several states that recognize same-sex marriage)! And why? Because we might ruin the sanctity of marriage?!

During the many years that my wife and I have been together, we have supported a few of our heterosexual friends through weddings and divorces. Our relationship is no different than any other serious committed relationship. We go to work, we pay bills, we go out once in a while, and we enjoy each other’s company as much as possible. We are two people who love each other wholeheartedly and want to grow old together and experience the same things that everyone else wants: love, happiness, family, and the freedom to do so, the same freedom that two people of opposite sexes are afforded.

9. Nicole Leaf and Carol Mason

Pledging an oath to marry one another in every state where it is legal, we still sit with limited rights federally as a devoted couple. Certain basic rights are denied to us: medical power of attorney, tax benefits, inheritance, and the legal relationship to our daughter. A federally recognized marriage would afford us all of these things that straight married couples enjoy from the moment they say “I do.” We are committed to spending our life together, to raising our daughter together, and to taking care of each other for the rest of our lives — and are ready and prepared to legally bind ourselves together for life. Right now, going from state to state, tying the knot everywhere we can, is our goal so that we can be as married as possible. However, we would gladly retire that mission to be married everywhere in the eyes of the law.

Read more about Nicole and Carol here.

11. Jonathan Franqui and Dwayne Beebe

We believe getting married is the ultimate act of love. It means uniting our life, our children, our friends, and our families together and showing the community the power of commitment. Marriage provides strength and stability in our relationship and companionship for life, and it strengthens our own personal values.

As a military family, we have found it difficult to deal with the inequalities that exist because of DOMA. Military spouses receive full benefits to support strong military families — however, Jonathan receives very few benefits. Even with a recent decision to grant a few benefits to same-sex couples, there are many more that are not authorized because we are gay. Dwayne was born and raised in California. He is a resident of that state so is directly affected by Prop 8.

We were legally married on Jan. 1, 2013, just after midnight in the first few moments of legal same-sex marriage in Maryland. Unfortunately, our family and friends could not be present. We traveled 1,000 miles to get our marriage license in Maryland. We wanted our marriage to be real with legal authority when we have our big wedding ceremony in Pensacola, Florida, on March 30 with our family and friends present. We will be the first same-sex couple to hold their wedding ceremony in one of the oldest churches in Florida, Old Christ Church.

It is extremely disheartening that Florida does not recognize equality for gays, lesbians, transgender people, and bisexuals — and their relationships as equal to others. Harvey Milk once said, “You gotta give ‘em hope,” and our hope is that young gays and lesbians will see our picture and hear our story and say, “They give me hope for the future.” Hopefully we can make a difference!

Read more about Jonathan and Dwayne here.

13. David Groff and Clay Williams

Getting married here in New York state meant the world could no longer tell us that we were temporary. After 16 years together, Clay and I could take our place among other permanently, publicly, and legally acknowledged couples. That is a radical act. Even more radical would be if our state marriage was no longer a regional reality but a force of fact in places like Texas, Clay’s home state. Meeting a cop in Amarillo or a preacher in Lubbock, I could call Clay “my husband” and know that I had the law of my land at my back. Beyond that, Clay and I want to do our part to show that marriage equality summons us all to equality within marriage — that all of us (gay and non-gay) can move past the tired but persistent legacy of gender-based marital expectations and commit to partnerships defined by balance and trust. That commitment is also a radical act — a gift that LGBT people give the world.

15. Jason Schneiderman and Michael Broder

I am not looking to DOMA to improve my treatment at a personal level. My family is loving and supportive; my workplace embraces diversity; my husband and I have a nurturing and sustaining relationship.

For us, the end of DOMA would mean the end of confusion over tax forms, the end of being married when we’re in New York, but not when we’re in Texas. It would mean that we would receive full citizenship at the federal level — I would receive Michael’s Social Security checks after his death, for example.

DOMA was an insult when it passed, but it was a way to ward off an amendment to the constitution that would have truly prevented gay marriage, and it had little meaning. What was the point of preventing the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages that didn’t exist? But now that we have the marriage, overturning DOMA would do something to reverse that insult and give us full equality at financial and legal levels that may not be felt immediately but will make a huge difference in the long run — particularly surrounding end-of-life concerns.

The most immediate impact would be that our friend Ksenia could stay in the United States with her wife Lisa. Ksenia is a Russian national, and despite years of devotion and a child together, DOMA makes her continued life in the United States tenuous.

17. Mark Maxwell and Timothy Young-Maxwell

The failure to recognize LGBTQ families as whole members of society, and not second-class citizens, harms the foundation our nation was built on and does a lifetime of harm to all children. We must do better.

DOMA must be repealed, because LGBTQ parents and their children are twice as likely to live in poverty than those raised by heterosexual parents. DOMA prevents our families from receiving important federal benefits, including Social Security survivor benefits. DOMA places a higher tax burden on our families and relegates same-sex families to second-class status, which harms children. DOMA must be repealed.

The outcome of Proposition 8 and the DOMA cases provide an opportunity for the Supreme Court to right the discrimination and oppression experienced by same-sex families. The failure for the court to act on behalf of the LGBTQ families would indicate that the court lost sight of America’s most precious assets, our children.

Read more about Mark and Tim here.

Thanks to Freedom to Marry for putting us in touch with several of the above couples.

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