Feb. 12 marks the third Annual National Freedom to Marry Daychosen because it falls between Abraham Lincoln's birthday and Valentine's Day. Lincoln personifies the nation's commitment to equality, according to Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is coordinating events throughout Chicago and the rest of the country.
On the heels if the Vermont Supreme Court's landmark ruling ordering the state legislature to extend to gay and lesbian couples the same rights, protections, and benefits available to non-gay couples through marriage, this Freedom to Marry Day deserves special recognition, Lambda stated in a press released.
Lambda's Midwest Regional Office, and many other groups, are encouraging gays to involve their families and friends in this educational opportunity.
On the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 12, Lambda volunteers will be distributing Freedom to Marry information in popular shopping areas around Chicago. In the evening, volunteers will be scouring a diverse group of the city's GLBT bars, distributing bottles of Vermont maple syrup and information about how people can help support the freedom to marry.
Other organizations are also planning events.
"Through our collective efforts," Lambda said, "we will use awareness and support for the freedom to marry. It is within our reach. In fact, recent polls indicate that greater than a majority of the American public believes same-sex couples will some day have the right to marry. Working together, we will bring that day closer."
There are more than 30 events set around the U.S., including symbolic weddings in Memphis, Philadelphia, and Tucson, and rallies in Boston and Fort Collins.
For details, call ( 312 ) 663— 4413, www.lambdalegal.org .
Following are tesimonials compiled by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Outlines newspaper, for Freedom to Marry Day.
Michael Bauer & Roger Simon
Roger and I will be celebrating our 18th anniversary March 13. During those years, we, like any couple, have had our ups and downs our times of great joy and great sorrow and sadness. But all this has helped us create a relationship based on mutual love, caring, commitment and devotion.
I think that we both are amazed at the political developments that have occurred for gay men and lesbians from when we met in 1982 till now. Ten years ago, I never thought that even the issue of same-sex marriage would be conceivable during our lifetimes. During the past five years we have attended numerous commitment services and have been touched by each one. But a commitment service would not be adequate for us at this point. As I have said to numerous politicians who I know when we have discussed the issue of same-sex marriage, we have as much of a mutual loving, committed and devoted relationship as they do and I want the legal right to seek governmental acceptance and recognition of that relationship.
I actually am in awe that, as I look at the political developments in Hawaii, Vermont and California, I realize that Roger and I will realize that goal in our lifetime. For whether or not we as a community win individual battles over this issue, I am 100 percent confident that we will ultimately triumph on this war to secure the right to marry. And when we do, Roger and I plan to have one hell of a party.
Testimonial from Raven & Gina Rodriguez
Have you ever watched a movie where it's obvious the two main characters are meant to fall in love because certain circumstances and situations keep throwing them into each other? Either through the help of fate, destiny or a guardian angel, the two simply cannot escape themselves and by the end of the movie, they stop fighting it and lock in a passionate kiss as the screen fades to black and the credits roll. Such is the story of how Gina and I met.
It literally took more than six years through a web of connections, consequences and coincidences before we actually met face to face. First my best friend knew of her, then a straight male friend of mine became a cop and started working with her. Momentum built with a barrage of similar circumstances until finally, there was no where left to go but towards each other. And on Aug. 10, 1997, we ended up at the same place at the same time and fell in love the very instant we met.
At first I thought it was crazy. We were standing there, smiling all goofy at each other, our hearts literally pounding so hard it felt as though they were physically reaching for each other. I couldn't breathe, she couldn't speak and yet it was perfect. Everything got all hazy around the edges as we finally began to address each other. I had never in my entire life experienced such a thing and as it turns out ( luckily ) , neither had she. We had fallen in love at first sight. The realization of an urban myth. We never looked back.
We moved in right away, never bearing to spend a moment apart. On Sweetest Day of that same year, as we prepared to go out to dinner, Gina nervously sat me down on our couch and before she could remove the small black box from her pocket, I was jumping all over her screaming "Yes!" over and over again. On Valentine's Day of the following year, as we sat in a restaurant surrounded by over a dozen of our friends, I brought out my own small black box to accompany her emphatic "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
At the end of May of that same year we had our commitment ceremony. Conducted by a spiritualist and surrounded by loved ones, Gina and I vowed undying and unconditional love, devotion and respect. We had agreed to not write out our vows but rather express what came from our hearts in that moment of pure joy. I must admit that the last thing we were thinking of was the fact that it wasn't legal. In our hearts and minds, this was the most pure and concrete bond any two people could make. This was a marriage that counted more than most legal ones did. Unfortunately, it isn't enough in the real world.
Soon after the marriage, I had my last name legally changed to hers. My surname came with too many reminders of an inconsiderate and cruel family life. Taking her last name gave me a sense of home, of belonging with the one person who loved me without reservation. However, because our marriage is not legal, we had to pay hundreds of dollars to achieve that "sense." A free commodity in a legal marriage.
Gina and I got lucky in the healthcare department, however. She works for the City of Chicago and under the domestic-partnership plan, I am covered. But it's not without its flaws. Soon after the wedding came discussions of having a child. Again we had to shell out hundreds of dollars to pay for a medical procedure that is not covered by insurance companies because technically, I "can" have children if I did it the "old fashioned" way.
To point out how fate, destiny, or a guardian angel, directs our lives, I ( thankfully ) got pregnant on the first try, eliminating the worry of having to spend even more money for the same privileges that most heterosexuals get for free. Our next hurdle would be whether or not the baby would be covered under Gina's insurance. Not a problem if our marriage was legal. We lucked out on that one. After a dozen phone calls and a slight case of the run-around, we were finally informed that the City DOES see domestic partners as spouses, therefore the child would be covered after the first 30 days of birth. Of course, we prayed that the baby would not have any complications because unlike the child of a heterosexual couple who would be covered from birth, we had a 30-day waiting period.
And now we are experiencing yet another symptom of having a non-legal marriage. Gina's adoption of our baby girl. This time we are spending thousands of dollars so that Gina can be recognized as our daughter's legal parent. Never mind that she paid for the sperm, paid for the insemination, pays for her health coverage as well as clothes, food and shelter. And because we are a gay couple, we have to pay a little extra, be investigated a little extra and thus be annoyed a little extra.
Gina and I are fortunate that we are in a position to pay for these things that would normally come free to a legally married heterosexual couple. It is unfair, however. On top of everything else we pay our taxes and are still denied our basic fundamental right to a legalized marriage. And all because it is "morally" wrong. I thought we already settled the separation of church and state thing long ago?
Even though we don't like it, Gina and I will continue to do what it takes to not let a simple technicality stop us from having the life we deserve. If that means working a little extra ( and no, we shouldn't have to ) , it's worth it to us. It's been a Catch— 22 really. In order to get the life we have, we have had to pay the same government that denies us our basic rights thousands of dollars. But if we put our lives on hold to wait on a possibility that someday we may win those rights, it's letting society thwart our achieving the same life's privileges they get for free.
Gina and I are more than satisfied spiritually and emotionally with the marriage we already have. It's purity can never be touched. Now if only it can count as much in society as it does to us, then perhaps we can focus our attention ( and money ) towards life's other little details without the worry of denied legal rights.
Gene & Sue Stephens-Connolly
So often, love is loosely defined as a mere feeling between a man and woman that leads to marriage, a comfortable home, and 2.5 children. We say love is a journey where spirits meet to find a heart equally willing to ride sometime bumpy roads, the long nights, illnesses and surgeries, and an occasional tender touch after a difficult day.
Sue and I did not meet each otherour spirits did. After all, isn't that what love is? A mutual spiritual connection; an unconditional caring; a commitment to provide all of oneself and one's resources, whether financial or emotional, for the security and well being of another soul? The right to marry is one of the oldest fundamental rights mentioned in the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Yet, my partner and I are denied that fundamental legitimacy and protection each time we walk down a street and are unable to hold hands, or each time we complete a loan application and are questioned about our marital status and connection.
On the coldest day of winter in late December of 1995, my partner presented me with a poem; a marriage proposal if you will, with a promise of unconditional and committed love. As I answered "Yes" while shivering from the bitter cold, I looked at my partner and saw my future. No, it didn't include a "husband" but it did include a constant life partner and best friend. Standing there I thought to myself, "Yes, we could have a comfortable home and maybe even birth or adopt our 2.5 children, but what we will share most is a lifetime of love."
Soon after my partner proposed to me, we prepared for our 'wedding' day. On Valentine's Day of the following year, in the art gallery we were to use for our ceremony reception, I knelt on one knee and reciprocated her marriage proposal and engagement ring. As we prepared for our special day, we both realized that as wonderful as it was to have found each other, we would not and could not be truly married.
June 29, 1996 was the date of our commitment ceremony. Making up our own special vows, we both wrote poems to each other. Like Maya Angelou's poem, Where We Belong, our poems echoed the years of endless searching for love and acceptance; of past hurt from loves lost; and the life lessons taught by taking the road too often travelled. We stood before our family, friends, pastor, and God, praying and hoping for the slightest grace and mercy from an omnipotent being whom we believe knows only love. As we left the alter basking in the joy and knowledge that we'd found each other, our hearts remained heavy at the instant realization of the battles that lay ahead.
Evette Cardona & Mona Noriega
We have been in a committed, monogamous relationship for four years. One of us has experienced heterosexual marriage and one of us never even imagined she'd ever want to get marriedto a man. So although getting married is not really on our radar screen, we feel we should not be penalized in terms of receiving the financial and legal benefits granted to married persons ( social security, pension, health insurance, hospital decision-making, etc. ) just because we are two women. If marriage is the only way to secure the same benefits, then we believe the option should be given to lesbians and gay men. It's kind of funny that society seems to be so protective of an institution with a 50%+ rate of failure.
Another strong argument for the right to marry is that lesbians of color are more likely to have children, lower incomes, and thus less options from the get-go. The option to marry and secure legal and health-related benefits that cannot be easily thwarted by hateful relatives in a court or in a hateful society also makes the freedom to marry a needed right.
The Vermont ruling was quite a surprise. Even though it will be a long time before lesbians and gay men can marrygiven the field day the courts and right wing will have in response to the verdictyou can't imagine the profoundly symbolic power that verdict rendered for the affirmation of millions of lesbians and gays, many of whom are in the closet, in marriages, in the military, in classrooms, in your office, in your homes, and in front of your face.
We'll spend Freedom to Marry Day doing what we do as a lesbian couplesleep a little longer, chores, relax, see friendsbut we'll likely reflect on our relationship, too, and thank the godesses that at least we're okay with being lesbians.