This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, amazing, challenging things. This is the story of Violet and Rebecca and their marriage which isn’t recognized by their state.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m a 30 year old teacher originally from Iowa and now living in Texas. My wife and I have three adorable dogs (two are puppies!) and one grumpy, old cat. For fun I knit, craft, and play roller derby! (And, oh yeah, I’m a girl!)
How did you meet your awesome wife?
I met Rebecca during my junior year of high school. Actually, she was my gym partner! We were the first out lesbian couple at our school, which meant we were harassed and treated poorly, often in front of teachers who refused to intervene. As for Rebecca, she’s my opposite in many ways (I’m tall, loud, and outgoing, while she’s petite, quiet and reserved.) I feel like we balance each other out and make a great pair!
When you proposed to your wife, how did you plan to commemorate your relationship since same-sex marriages aren’t legal in of Texas?
We knew after two months of dating that we wanted to be together forever (oh high school!) and we were engaged for several years before we decided to have a commitment ceremony in 2002. We realized that our marriage was not recognized by the state of Texas, but we wanted to show our friends, family, and most importantly each other, that we were serious about being partners for life.
Were there any legal steps you could take to solidify your commitment to each other?
We could’ve legally changed our names to a shared last name, but there would’ve been an outrageous fee ($500 per person) and we couldn’t decide what last name we would like to share. After reading horror stories about gay and lesbian couples that had no rights when their partner is in the hospital we filled out paperwork to make us each other’s legal medical power of attorney, granting us visitation during hospital stays and allowing us to make medical choices for each other. For many years we would only state “medical power of attorney” when asked at the hospital for fear of being kicked out.
What are some of the problems that can come up for same-sex couples in states that don’t acknowledge their marriage?
Since we are not considered family we can’t make decisions for each other regarding medical issues (such as treatment options) and although Rebecca’s company has domestic partner insurance, we’re taxed on my insurance. Also, since we live in the “bible belt” we receive stares, nasty looks and under-breath comments while out in public together. On more than one occasion we have received religious pamphlets from people who were “concerned” about our lifestyle.
What was your wedding like?
It was beautiful! We got married right next a large lake in downtown Dallas. Our bridesmen dressed as satyrs (furry pants, horns and all) and my bridesmaids dressed as fairies. Our entrance was down two tiki-torched isles, where we met in the middle and had one of a friend officiate. Neither of us is religious so we mixed many different wedding rituals in to our ceremony, such as hand fastening and several of our attendants read bible verses pertaining to love.
How did the people in your life respond to your wedding?
My mom and sister were very accepting (they were two of my three bridesmaids). I was not close to my father at the time, so I did not even mention to him that I was gay, let alone getting married. Rebecca’s family was a bit more hesitant to accept us, but they attended our wedding and her father even walked her down the aisle!
Seven years after your ceremony in Texas, you and your wife were legally married in Connecticut. Did the legal ceremony feel different at all?
To me the legal ceremony was just paperwork. It was quick and to the point, but it was still sweet and romantic. There was nowhere near as much ceremony as the first wedding and it felt more like a renewal of our vows.
Does Texas acknowledge the legality of your marriage? Have you ever considered moving to a state where same-sex marriage is legal?
No, Texas does not acknowledge our marriage. It is so weird to me to have to put “single” on government documents even though I have been married to the love of my life for nine years. We have big plans of eventually moving to New York City, where our marriage is accepted. It’s so nice to walk down the street holding hands without people even giving us a second look.
Why is marriage equity important?
Our marriage is no different from anyone else’s, beside the fact that we’re both women. We go through all the same things that any other couple does (though the toilet seat’s never up) and we deserve the same rights that heterosexual couples take for granted. By denying same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples we’re saying that gays and lesbians are sub-human and don’t deserve basic human rights. This is a civil rights issue and we deserve the same rights as anyone else.
What advice would you give to other same-sex couples who would like to get married?
Do it! Your love is no less valid than anyone else’s and you should be able to spend the rest of your life with the one you love.If you happen to be in a state where it isn’t recognized, cover your back in case something happens (ie: sign power of attorney forms, enlist a lawyer to help you write a will, etc.) and be prepared to deal with people who think your marriage is a joke. In the end, who cares what anyone else thinks? The most important thing is that you have found the person you want to spend your life with and you’re happy!
My wife Rebecca adds: Make sure you actually want to get married. Getting divorced is much more difficult for a same sex couple so do not make this decision lightly.
Any (respectful!) questions for Violet? Are any of you married to a same-sex partner?