In October of 2000, my partner and I stood before our friends and family and promised to love each other. We’d already been together seven years at that point and didn’t need a piece of paper to validate our relationship but there is so much power in public declarations of love. When I came out to my mother in 1990, she threatened to disown me yet she was in the front row that day and cried as she watched Luisa and I commit ourselves to one another.
But something else happened that day: our first child was conceived. Before we walked down the aisle, Luisa and I had gone to the clinic for artificial insemination. It stuck and, nine months later, our son was born.
Our union was recognized by our loved ones but wasn’t legally recognized and that meant our son came into the world with only one legally recognized parent: me. Despite the fact that Luisa and I planned the pregnancy together, that she held my hand when he was conceived and went to every pre-natal appointment, that she held me during 14 hours of labor and cut the cord when he was born, she had absolutely no legal relationship to her child. Had we been legally married on that chilly October day, her rights would have been guaranteed.
Each night for the first three months of our son’s life, I nursed him when he woke and Luisa then rocked him back to sleep. In those quiet moments, she sat with her love for him and the knowledge that, should anything happen to me, he could be taken away from her. Still, she never held back, never hesitated in giving herself to him. She just loved — each lullaby a promise, each caress an act of faith.
We were fortunate to live in a state that granted second-parent adoptions and, three months and a couple of thousand dollars later, Luisa was able to adopt her own child. In 2005, we had our second child and went through the process again.
Prior to having kids, I was ambivalent about marriage. Nearly every person in my family has been divorced at least once, which instilled in me a deep cynicism about the institution itself. But I fell in love and we had kids and I would do anything to protect our family.
In October of 2013, 13 years after our first ceremony, we legally married. The first time we did it for love. The second time we did it for our kids. Now, with the Supreme Court decision last Friday, our relationship and our family are legally recognized in all 50 states. Marriage won’t change the hearts and minds of those who hate families like mine but it is a step in the right direction.
As Justice Anthony Kennedy stated so beautifully in his closing opinion in the Supreme Court’s decision:
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.”
I can’t think of a better description of the past 21 years with my partner. Love and family — that is all there is.
PHOTO CREDIT: VIKKI REICH