Welcome to Pride!

Welcome to APW Pride week. This project started last year, when Cindy asked me if APW was doing anything for Pride. After a lot of weighing of the pros and cons we decided to go for it. And what a week it was. It was my favorite week of the year last year, because of, well, the sentiments that Diana’s email to me summed up. She said, “Seeing weddings and marriages that look like mine will ended up meaning more than I realized. Of course there’s LGBTQ content mixed in all the time on APW, and I love that everything you write is from an inclusive perspective. But seeing one lady/lady couple after another this week really drove home the idea that my wedding is just as awesome as a lady/dude wedding.” So this week, we’re doing it again. Interestingly, this year the week has a decidedly political spin, because that’s where we are, right now, as a country. So I couldn’t be more thrilled to kick off the week with Aly of Embrace Release talking about what just happened to her family in North Carolina.

Imagine this: you’ve been married for nearly five years. You have a couple of wily children who exhaust and delight you. You and your significant other have weathered a few major storms—fertility struggles, grad school, communication breakdowns, childbirth twice, actual natural disaster-like storms, etc—and you’re stronger and more committed than ever. Then, you move to a new state.

As you’re scrambling to make friends, find a good burrito, and get anywhere without a GPS robot voice shaming you for having to recalculate again, there’s breaking news. Your local government officials declare that your marriage is dangerous, especially for children. (Your poor children!) Forget the endless war(s) and limping economy, you and your partner are the real problem. Signs pop up in yards and intersections. TV ads and op-eds, for and against, fly to and fro.

In the middle of the mayhem, life goes on for your family of four. You and your partner squeeze in quality time late at night after the children are asleep and before you both zone out to reality television. Your baby angrily sprouts teeth and learns how to scale furniture while your little/big kid resists potty-training but excels at bike-riding. Your local officials and new neighbors are undeterred by your seemingly innocuous existence. They take a vote. Sorry, the majority thinks you need to be sent a strong message. Your marriage is already illegal but you can add invalid and unrecognizable to the list too. No rights or protections for you as a couple, or family, anytime soon.

On the evening of the day North Carolina passed Amendment One, I sat out on the deck of our little brick ranch house in the waning sun, sipping a glass of wine, while my sons played and my partner worked late. I was in that space between bad news and the breakdown, not in shock or in denial, just not ready to respond.

Anyway, there were more immediate concerns like prowling mosquitos and the danger of sleepy bees on clover, like mini landmines, beneath my kids’ bare feet. I had my camera ready too for brother hugs and other transcendental moments, so I asked my 3-year-old, Avie, to sing me a song. He ran inside to get his toy ukulele. I flipped the camera to video, and captured this:

Initially, my spirits were so lifted by such extreme cuteness and the realization that I’d just witnessed his first impromptu original song—and got it on video!—that I didn’t think much about the words he was singing. His attention turned to bugs on our potted lime tree, and I watched the video back.

I just want you to stay with me and I don’t want you to go out in the woods by yourself. I will come with you in the woods because I don’t want a bear to get you!

Wow, I thought. My three-year-old knows more about love than most people in this state. And that’s exactly what this state is: a dark, bear-infested wood. How can we ever be happy or feel safe here?

Much of the campaign against the amendment focused on the so-called unintended consequences of its passage, like how it could reduce domestic violence protections for unmarried, heterosexual victims and how children of unmarried parents might lose health insurance coverage. Campaign leaders did this because they expected voters to be more sympathetic to the plight of abuse victims and children than LGBT folks. I get it. I do. But it still made my heart ache to think that my little family, and others like us, needed to be hidden from view for the campaign to be successful. Then we lost anyway.

My mother and brother called later that night. Both North Carolina residents somewhere on the conservative end of the political spectrum, but both also firmly in the vote against camp, they had been convinced the amendment would fail. I tried to keep it together, to play it like I wasn’t surprised. Because I wasn’t. But expecting it to pass did nothing to soften the blow when it did. I can’t recall if I cried to one or both, but when I finally did respond, I blubbered, and they stammered, expressing shock at the voting results, saying it wouldn’t last. Even though I’ve been talking about LGBT discrimination for years, this was the first time they were both personally confronted and deeply upset by it.

It dawned on me that my brother and mother had come a long way since our 2007 wedding. They were both in attendance that May night five years ago, but their understanding of my relationship with my partner as a real marriage needed more than just a ring-swapping ritual to develop. Pre-wedding, when my brother found out that our sister wouldn’t be attending because of her religious beliefs, he was furious, and said something like “I don’t get it either but I’m going to be there because I’m your brother!” I was, of course, grateful for his support, even if it was a bit qualified. As for my mother, from the time I came out at 18 to the time I married my partner at 27, I think there was always a little hope in her heart that my queer identity was just a phase. Our wedding was the final nail in my gay coffin, and that was hard for her, even if she did look lovely dancing the night away at our reception.

Five years on, my sister still wants little to do with us, but my brother and mother treat us like any other married couple. Still, neither one would have likely shared pro-marriage equality links on Facebook prior to the Amendment One saga, but both did, and a lot, in the weeks leading up to the vote. My mother shared my amendment-related blog posts, as well a video for an amendment protest song with her friends, many of whom are not as evolved on the subject I’m sure. On voting day, I posted a picture of Avie with his “mean face” on and an anti-amendment fake tattoo on his cheek. My brother promptly shared it on his wall with the words, “Let’s roll!” This may sound silly. But when I saw that, I teared up.

In the days following the vote, I moped, and I brooded. I also joined in a peaceful protest organized by Campaign for Southern Equality at our city marriage license office, along with my partner and sons, and ugly cried on the local news. Meanwhile, something magical was happening. Scores of people were emailing, texting, calling, and writing messages on my Facebook wall and blog to express outrage and support for our family. Old college friends, former pet sitting clients, the midwife who caught Avie, erstwhile neighbors, a therapist from long ago, new friends from my son’s playgroup, ex-coworkers, random acquaintances, many strangers who read my blog or articles online, cross-country cousins and other more distant relatives (some of whom I’ve never met) got in touch to tell us that we are a valid family, that we deserve equal rights, and that they’re rooting for us.

I’ve written before about how weddings are like big send-off parties and that the road after can be lonely and rough. It’s rare, I think, for a married couple to get a second wedding-like pep rally years down the road, but we did. On our official five-year wedding anniversary, another unintended consequence of the amendment’s passage revealed itself—and this has to be the most unintended consequence of all: we feel more accepted and supported as a couple by our family and community than ever before.

North Carolina may in fact be one big bear-infested wood, but thanks to Amendment One, we’ve discovered that our little family isn’t walking through it alone. There’s a crowd of good, kind people walking with us here and in spirit, and we are a proud parade.

Happy Pride, y’all!

Photos from Aly & Elroi’s personal collection

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  • Sarah

    I love this. Thank you for sharing. I am so sorry about all the discrimination that remains.

  • Carbon Girl

    That song was amazing! What an adorable kid!

    I am curious about how this amendment has affected you and your wife legally. Will your wife be able to visit you in the hospital? Do you both have custody of the kids? If not, are there any more creative ways you can go about getting those rights?

    And lastly, have you considered leaving North Carolina because of the amendment?

    Best of luck with everything!

    • aly

      Thanks for your comment and kind words! We’re uncertain how/if the amendment will affect us. (I call Elroi my wusband, btw.) We were lucky enough that we lived in Atlanta, GA when our kids were born so El was able to adopt them there. Those adoptions carry across state lines, though El would not be able to adopt any future children I birth because second parent adoption is illegal here. We have drawn up wills and healthcare directives to ensure we are entitled to be present in the hospital and make decisions for each other’s care. We feel pretty confident that those documents, along with President Obama’s order to allow same-sex couples hospital visitation rights, will go a long way to keeping us safe in the event that one of us gets sick.

      We’re also lucky that El’s private employer offers same-sex partner health benefits, and will continue to do so. It seems that all amendment one really did in our lives was bum us out. It made us feel unwelcome in our new state, and pushed legal marriage a little bit further out of our grasp. Our only hope now is for the federal government to step in and declare all of these anti-marriage equality laws and amendments unconstitutional, thereby freeing us all up to be legally, equally wed.

      I considered leaving NC for 30 seconds but my partner is a college professor and those jobs aren’t growing on trees, at least not in desirable places. Also, my extended family lives in NC and it’s important to us for our boys to grow up around family. It’s also important for us (and our sanity!) to have the help that comes with family nearby.

      • L

        I just have to say that “wusband” is very cute and endearing. As is your son’s song. It made me tear up.

        • Carbon Girl

          Aly, thanks for replying. What strikes me is that you likely had to pay lots of $$ in lawyer fees to get those protections that would have come automatically if you could be married legally. Not all same sex couples would be able to afford that. Second parent adoption is illegal in NC? That seems like a law specifically designed to thwart same sex families. How sad.

          • aly

            Exactly, those lawyer fees were expensive, and many same-sex couples would not be able to afford them. That’s a good thing to point out the next time you hear someone say we can have all the same rights through legal documents. But also, we don’t have all the same rights. Nothing but full marriage would give us federal rights and protections. Plus, if we were legally married when I gave birth, my partner’s name would have gone on our sons’ birth certificates, negating the need (and costs, which can be prohibitive) of second parent adoptions…the list goes on and on.

  • E3

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful family with us. I truly believe stories like yours will someday help those who “don’t get it” to realize that we’re all in this together, just trying to live a life filled with love.

    All the best.

  • Oh man, North Carolina was hard for me because it’s a place my wife and I would like to live but not a place we are currently living. Our state (Maryland) is up for a referendum this year and I honestly don’t know what I’ll do if it passes. My sympathies and hope for change.

    • Please come live here! It’s beautiful and there’s lots of fun things to do and good jobs. And, with your help, we can repeal the amendment sooner.

  • Your son’s song made me cry (though I’m sure that would have happened before the end of the post, regardless).

    I will go into the woods with you, indeed.

    • I know! How is it that kids so often get what the rest of the world doesn’t?

  • Sharon L

    I immediately recognized the first photo because that’s the city I live in and felt a special bond with this post. The day that Amendment One passed was tough and disheartening, but in the end, also full of hope for the future that things will eventually change. North Carolina is a great place, but it was a reminder that there are still things that need to be done. Thanks for writing this perspective…it needs to be heard.

    • Kris

      Me too! :) I did a double-take when I saw the “Find Your Cool” painting. Yay, Durham!

  • Oh, North Carolina. It broke my heart when the amendment passed, as I had such high hopes that it would fail. We live in Arkansas, so we’re in a pretty similar boat (legality-wise), and I feel for your beautiful family.

    Things are changing. Thank you for sharing.

  • Steph

    Thank you for this beautiful post. My aunt and uncle (very liberal hippie esque Madison WI transplants whose youngest child, my awesome cousin, recently came out) live in NC and I know how painful that ignorant ruling was for them. I wish you and your family fair and commonsense treatment across this country of ours soon. Much love!

  • Stephen Colbert’s recent joke to Neil Patrick Harris comes to mind: “It’s almost as if your happiness does not take my happiness away.” I’m so sorry that North Carolina has yet to figure that out, and that you are bearing the brunt of it. But your happiness with your partner, family and supportive community makes my heart a zillion times happier.

    Best of luck to you and yours in navigating the woods (with or without GPS).

  • Laura

    I just want to reiterate this:

    You are a valid family.
    You deserve equal rights.
    We’re all rooting for you.

    Also, your son is frickin adorable.

    • aly

      thank you
      thank you
      thank you

      Seriously, it means so much.

  • Karen

    I live in North Carolina, too. This amendment was heartbreaking but I can only imagine how it was for a couple with kids. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    This type of vote is the second time for me because I lived in Missouri when a similar type of amendment passed there. Every single one of these amendments has passed in every state that has put one on the ballot. The rights of a minority should never be put to a vote of “the people.” Voting on people’s rights is obscene.

    The only hope is through the courts. I’ve been encouraged by the recent court cases that have declared the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional and am hopeful that one of them will make it to the Supreme Court soon. Just a year ago I thought it wouldn’t happen in my lifetime, now, thanks to these court cases, it is a possibility. One day soon my partner and I will be legally married.

    Although our wedding won’t take place for a couple of years due to other circumstances, we’ve already decided on our invitations, the “Love Joy Happiness” design from e.m. papers (one of the APW sponsors). Love, Joy, and Happiness are what we want — and equality would be wonderful, too :-)

    • Class of 1980

      “The rights of a minority should never be put to a vote of “the people.” Voting on people’s rights is obscene.”

      Benjamin agrees …

      “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.”

      -Benjamin Franklin

    • I’ve been searching for the exact quote for a few weeks…that exact sentiment was stated during Washington State’s legislative debates on same-sex marriage. Civil rights should NOT be a matter of popular referendum.

      • Thank you! Please tell Chris Christie that.

        From a frustrated Jerseyan!

        • Man oh man do I hear you. I’m actually an Idaho resident but my whole family is in Washington State so I’m working to secure a few votes there. (Here, we won’t even let bills to add sexual orientation to our Human Rights statute out of committee…)

  • AnotherCourtney

    What a beautiful spin on a terrible event! I surprised myself during the Amendment One campaign here in NC, and I became very vocal about how ridiculous the amendment was (the first time I’d been particularly vocal about any political event). The right answer was so OBVIOUS to me that I couldn’t really imagine a world that allowed something like that to pass. To be a part of our constitution – the document that’s meant to secure rights for its citizens, not take them away.

    The night they announced the results, I stayed up late to see everything come in. Then I cried. Then I started considering what it would take to abandon my life in this state and start again in a state that doesn’t operate on FEAR.

    I hope you live in a part of North Carolina that makes you feel as accepted as you can under the circumstances. I hope you believe that one day, this will be overturned. It’s only a matter of time.

    And to everyone that has a vote like this coming up in your own state, this is your reminder to SHOW UP and cast your vote. You can’t do anything about it if you talk without acting.

    • Class of 1980

      All the cities in North Carolina voted against the amendment.

      Don’t leave the state. North Carolina needs people like you. ;)

      • Brytani

        Even little Southern Pines, I’m a tiny bit proud to say.

        YES to not leaving. We need to have hope and love and bravery and all of that is more powerful than a legion of fear, even if only behind the scenes, even if only in a rematch, or before God Almighty on judgment day.

        • AnotherCourtney

          Thanks for encouraging me to stay, ya’ll. I never thought about it that way. :) I’m in Raleigh, and I was VERY proud that Wake County voted against it!

    • aly

      Thank you for this! I think a lot of people surprised themselves with how vocal they became around the amendment, my mother and brother included. It really forced people to pick a side and that was a good thing for getting people talking about it. The hard part now is to keep talking about, keep fighting, keep giving money to the organizations that are still working against the amendment and other LGBT rights issues.

      We live in Winston-Salem, which is no Asheville or Durham, but it’s surprisingly comfortable (most of the time) for our family.

  • This is a beautiful post about the heartbreaking referendum. My parents live in North Carolina, so I found the vote especially disheartening – even though I had a great talk with them about it and they voted NO. That was such a rollercoaster week, because the next day President Obama came out in favor on marriage equality, which healed my heart a little (but then I don’t live in NC, so the Amendment was emotionally hard for me, but didn’t affect me personally). I do think (from the news stories I’ve read) that President Obama’s support of marriage equality is going to make a difference in Maryland with the referendum there this Fall – I certainly hope so – and I’m glad that you all got so much personal support after Amendment 1’s passage. Thanks for writing this truly lovely piece.

    • aly

      Thank you, Carrie! I was moved when the President came out for marriage equality the day after NC’s vote. I get why a lot of LGBT folks felt that it was too little, too late or solely a political move but to me, it seemed like a big presidential F-U to NC anti-gay voters, and a “right on” to me and my people, which was what I desperately needed in that moment. I just really hope it doesn’t harm his chances of getting re-elected, because that other guy would be a nightmare for LGBT rights.

  • Class of 1980


    I stumbled onto your blog last week while looking up something for North Carolina. Your post came up where you talked about the legal things you’d done to gain some of the rights that automatically come with marriage, but that there was no way to get all of the rights.

    In the middle of reading, I saw your photos and realized your wedding had been on APW! It’s a small world.

    I am on a message board where some North Carolinians are still battling it out over Amendment One. I was tempted to put your blog post up there as a rebuttal to the few dummies who say you don’t need to get married, because you can go to an attorney and arrange everything you might need.

    Thankfully, most of the people on that message board were against Amendment One, but there are the other sort too. The amendment was so poorly written, that some people still don’t even realize what they voted for. One poster who voted for Amendment One, said that they were against gay marriage, but they wouldn’t be against domestic partnerships. I pointed out that they had just voted AGAINST any possibility of domestic partnerships because of the way the amendment was worded!

    Anyway, your blog beautifully captures what Amendment One did to REAL people. Your writing would tug at the heart of anyone who still has a heart.

    Since I am living in Georgia, all I could do was donate to the cause, but I couldn’t vote. I am moving back to North Carolina this year (mountains), and as a fellow North Carolinian, you will have one more of us on your side … you know, the side that values civil rights. ;)

    • aly

      Thank you so much for this and for donating to our cause, Class of 1980! Good luck in the mountains. Asheville, perhaps? I would loooove to live there.

  • Granola

    You have a beautiful family and I just want to give you a hug. This is just wrong, and as a non-LGBTQ person, I’m struggling with what I can do about it in my own life. It feels like a minor, nowhere-near-as-serious corollary to today’s post

    My fiance and I are getting married in October in a Catholic mass in my hometown. My parents and grandparents got married in the same church. I like that tradition and continuity, but I’m really struggling with partaking in an institution that I often feel has profoundly lost its way (and that’s putting it nicely). Since we were both raised Catholic, there isn’t really another faith to easily choose. I’m not sure that the emotional chaos and turmoil creating by my reneging on the Catholic ceremony is something I want, especially as I’m not sure whether it will serve any purpose other than creating that pain. However, at the same time I feel like a coward.

    I know that life is full of paradoxes and conflicts and we have to muddle through as best we can, but does anyone have some insight on this one? I could use some of that thoughtful and courageous APW perspective I know and love.

    • Beth

      Hi Granola,
      Your comment rang so true to my heart that– even though I do not necessarily have the answers– I had to reply to make sure you knew you were not alone. My (non-Catholic) new husband and I had a Catholic ceremony on April 21 of this year. As a cradle Catholic myself, I felt that at the time the planning started, this was the truest reflection of my heritage and faith. As an intelligent social worker who considers herself a feminist and an ally, I found during the process a great deal of pain in that my personal values seemed to at times be at cross purposes with what was being presented on the altar, in our pre-Cana program, and later on in Rome. APW has had some great posts about reconciling our principles of feminism with the structure of some organized religion (this was one of my faves when I started hyper-ventilating http://apracticalwedding.com/2011/08/pennsylvania_catholic_wedding/). I also went out of my way to include lectionary options with the most egalitarian language, etc. You are certainly in no way the only person who is struggling with the institution and the present events still playing out. I ultimately made the choice to continue with the Catholic ceremony, because that was the right decision for us, as I wanted as well to honor my family’s culture and where I came from. I know this may not be the right decision for everyone else. What I found to be of support was remembering that the ceremony that would join us together was a statement about sharing our love for each other and love of God with those dearest to us… and was not a statement about ageeing with everything the church did or did not say. I engaged in a lot of discussion with others, a lot of reflection, a lot of prayer, and I still don’t have it all figured out. Almost 2 months out, even with the events of the recent weeks, I still believe it was the right decision for us… church politics never crossed my mind that morning, just the joy of marrying my best friend. Please know that you are not a coward; rather, know that you are brave for questioning and evaluating what is best for you and your fiance. I wish you luck and peace, and you will be in my prayers.

      • Granola

        Thank you very much for the kind words and for sharing your experience! It’s comforting to hear someone else’s story of struggle. I read somewhere once that in anything worth doing, there is bound to be a healthy dose of ambivalence, so I’m trusting that good will come from the introspection.

    • Hi Granola,

      My situation was similar to Beth’s. My Lutheran husband and I were married in a Catholic ceremony two years ago. At the time, I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted but that seemed the easiest/least conflict-ridden choice for my family of origin. At the time, I was in a faith transition, you could say, so it was easier to lean on my upbringing than rush to define my new beliefs in time for a ceremony (and have to explain and defend them before I was really sure of them myself). Our priest was more tolerant and that made it okay. We also did the egalitarian readings, cut all the references to having children that we could and did not have communion.

      However, with the way our local Catholic church is now (the Archbishop is leading the push for the anti-gay marriage amendment in MN), I would make a different choice, and I am no longer affiliated with the Catholic Church at all.

      I don’t know if my story helps you at all, or just complicates things further. I think it depends on your local priest and how flexible your ceremony can be to align with your belief system.

    • Sarah

      I am Catholic but marrying a non-Catholic in a non-Catholic church. For me, marrying within the Catholic Church wasn’t an option because I haven’t found a congregation in this city (I am a transplant) where I feel at home, and my fiance is very connected to his church. However, his church also opposes same-sex marriage. In response, we’ve asked the minister (who is on our page) to include a passage from the MA court decision as one of our readings. Since there is less flexibility in the Church ceremony, perhaps you could print an excerpt from that decision, or a similar quote, in your program? I know some of the women religious in particular have come out strongly in favor of equality, so you may even be able to include text from one of them (double whammy, support nuns and equality!).
      Second, we attended an Engagement Encounter (pre-wedding version of Marriage Encounter) and I was…shall we say…VERY OPEN about my stance during discussion :). It’s not the Vatican, but I think just being open about being a pro-equality Catholic to other Catholics in explicitly Catholic settings is important.
      Third, my partner was really put off that many things from his church were very ‘marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman.’ Talking to his pastor and realizing that she is VERY pro-equality–even if the church as whole is not–made him much more comfortable. If you feel comfortable, I would consider exploring the views of the particular priests/deacons who will be participating in your wedding–or even trying to finagle for more liberal participants. I think knowing that the people who are truly sanctifying your marriage are of like minds may help with some conflict.
      Last but not least, most of my wedding party happens to be gay. They are bringing their partners, and they are sitting with us at the head table (and coming to the rehearsal dinner). I dare my partner’s father to say a single word.

  • Rachel

    I love this post from beginning to end and I will also join you in the woods! Thank you so much for writing and submitting this.

  • KatieBeth

    I realize that this is deeply naive (and sounds kind of weird), but deep down, I wonder if the reason these campaigns flourish is because people don’t know any better – they just haven’t met an LGBTQ person ever and are just ambivalent about civil rights because they never thought about them before. Or maybe I just don’t want to think that, yes, there are, in fact, that many hate-filled people out there.

    At any rate, I just have to hope that one day, each of those people who voted to enshrine marriage discrimination into law, that they will meet an LGTBQ person who is, in fact, just like them. And not in a human, we’re-all-one sense – but like Aly wrote about in her post, as a mom working to juggle kids and moving and a partner and LIFE – who happens to be a lesbian. Or, say, another Republican mechanic who watches Ice Road Truckers – who happens to be gay. Or a secretarial temp who’s obsessed with Lil Wayne – who happens to be bi. Not that it’s the job of every LGTBQ person on earth to be an ambassador to every ignorant person – but I have to hope that, once ignorant people are able to see the similarities in their lives and not the differences in their sexualities, they’ll finally get it. Maybe I’m naive, but I just have to hope that kind of change will come.

    • “I realize that this is deeply naive (and sounds kind of weird), but deep down, I wonder if the reason these campaigns flourish is because people don’t know any better – they just haven’t met an LGBTQ person ever and are just ambivalent about civil rights because they never thought about them before.”

      Interesting you should say this. I read an article–which I can’t find now, of course–that interviewed a lot of younger church-going voters. One straight couple went to vote for the amendment together, and was quoted as saying something pretty close to, “We’re here to vote because our pastor told us that this needs to pass.” It struck me that they probably weren’t using their critical thinking skills too hard, because why would their pastor, someone they look up to and who is supposed to have their best interests in mind, lead them astray?

    • Caroline

      I think a lot of it is people who are just ignorant and don’t think about it because they think of “THOSE people” as some far-off stereotype.

      My husband talked to one of his work friends at length about the amendment, trying to explain to her why he felt so strongly against it. She was raised in a very conservative, religious, rural part of NC, but she was trying to listen and understand. Finally she asked in genuine confusion, “But if two women or two men get married, how do they decide who does the dishes?”

      It was just so ingrained in her that people had to follow “traditional” gender roles that she literally could not envision how two men or two women could run a household or raise a family together. She isn’t married and had just never conceived of marriage any other way than “Woman does housework and child care, man works and fixes things.”

      My husband explained gently that we’re a straight married couple and we sat down and divided up the housework in a way that works for us — we take turns doing the dishes — and the gay married couples we know do the same thing.

      It was a mind-opening moment for her. I think a lot more people in conservative, religious rural areas around here (which are the areas that went for the amendment) need that kind of moment. Gay people are not cartoon monsters, they’re not bizarre space aliens — gay marriages work a lot like straight marriages.

      Yes, some people’s minds are firmly closed and they’ll never let themselves have that moment. But I do believe many people just need to meet and talk to gay people and gay-friendly people to start seeing them as “people just like me” and start changing their thinking.

      • Class of 1980

        I know of a small town in the mountains of North Georgia where the local newspaper ran a story with the headline … “The Catholics Are Coming”.

        The story was about how there are now Catholics in the community and how they can be good neighbors. along with a few quotes from the local Catholic church.

        I nearly fell on the floor when I read it. It was hard to wrap my head around the physical isolation of the mountains that renders Catholics as an exotic species.

        Growing up in the sixtes and seventies, we went to school with kids of all religions. But that was a Miami suburb.

        So yeah, the more rural a person is, the less they’ve been exposed to … unless they’ve been out in the world at some point. We take for granted that everyone’s used to what we’re used to, but they are not.

        I can tell you that gays are here in the smaller mountain towns, but they are quiet about it. Most people who grew up here probably don’t even know they’re looking at a gay couple.

        • Sarah

          I live in the state capitol of South Carolina, and people are shocked that I am Catholic. Literally, have physically stepped back, have tried to save me because I wasn’t going to heaven, have asked if there is a Catholic Church here (there are at least three regular and two university affiliated that I know of). I had ashes on Ash Wednesday and was stopped by three different people within ten minutes (in the post office) who told me I had something on my forehead. Telling them it was Ash Wednesday did not help explain the situation at all. A friend who lives in the Lowcountry had someone refuse to rent her an apartment. Oh, and they still have an itinerant priest–only comes every two weeks, because in the three county area her church serves, there are apparently only about 30 Catholics. Apparently there are more Catholics in Charleston, but trust me–it isn’t just small mountain towns in the South.

    • meg

      Studies have shown for YEARS that knowing an out gay person is the number one thing that changes peoples hearts and minds. It was used in the 70s as an argument for why people needed to come out, in fact. So yes, it’s really easy to other people when you don’t know you know them. (Because statistically, we all know LGTBQ folks, but we might not know we know them.)

  • I am from North Carolina, and this vote broke my heart too, especially after being so proud of North Carolina for going blue in the last election. I honestly wasn’t expecting it. I was also actually really incredably proud of all of my North Carolina friends because even the one’s who are conservative, and the one’s who usually don’t get political on facebook were all over this issue & being very loud about the need to vote against this amendment, and the need for equal marriage rights for all, and when the bill passed they were all heart broken as I was. Someone mentioned above that every city voted against this amendement & that is a HUGE change from when I was a teenager.

    I love North Carolina with my whole heart & I know North Carolinians: we are not done with this fight – just you watch. This amendment will be repealed. But in the meantime I am deeply sorry that my state has stripped you of your rights, because that is so very wrong. Please know that there are millions of North Carolinians who support gay rights, there are just bits and pieces of it that are bear infested- and unfortunately those bears love to come out in mass to vote for hate.

    • Hi other Lauren from N.C.! I feel like I also know this state and its people, and you’re absolutely right. The right thing didn’t prevail this time but it will, as it has before. This was a good warm-up for the next fight. Now we know what we’re capable of and we’ll work even harder.

  • Jeanine

    Your son is so adorable, and your family is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Laurel

    Aly, this is lovely. I’m so glad that your mother and brother are on board. That kind of active support means so much.

    Meg, I love that APW does Pride. I know it’s always tricky to balance concerns about tokenizing, normalization, and visibility. For me, though, being able to find images and stories about queer weddings is really meaningful, and Pride Week and the Marriage Equality section are amazing for that.

    • meg

      Thank you. It’s a complicated dance, but on a really personal level I’ve decided that I find APW Pride to be deeply important to me, so I’m going with my gut. Normalization is really important, but sometimes it’s important to flip the paradigm too, I think. Anyway. Thank you!

  • Ohhhhhh, I should not have read this in a coffee shop. I came this close to ugly crying in public.

    We’re really struggling with what it means to be marrying, but not be marrying legally. (Well, I’m really struggling. My fiancée has developed an enviable zen-like state about the whole gay marriage web and its shades of grey.) And this post reminded me, again, that the legal parts of marriage are obviously important, but that pledging love in front of a community, and being supported by that community is always a huge part of marriage, and it’s something that laws can’t take away or deny.

    Which is to say, thank you for this post (and others). Your writing has this amazing way of speaking to what I’m feeling, and it’s always comforting.

  • sarahrose

    Your son’s song brought tears to my eyes. It does sound like he gets a lot more about love than many adults.

    Thank you for sharing your story. Like someone else said above, people need to hear these stories. One at a time, it will shift the balance. In the mean time, I am just so sorry that you have to deal with this crap.

  • Elizabeth

    Thanks for sharing your story. Your family is clearly so brave, courageous, and beautiful, and I hope the day will come very soon when your family has the same rights and respect as any other.

  • Daynya

    Another fellow North Carolinian here. This was a heartbreaking matter for so many people I know. In fact, everyone that I know. I spent the months/weeks leading up to the vote going out of my way to tell everyone about it, and everyone was so nonchalant about the fact that it would not pass (which I feared was actually going to happen, despite their calmness). When it did, I was just appalled. So angry, so frustrated, so disappointed. Then to turn to the internet and see nothing but jokes about what a horrible place this is, and how everyone here was embarrassed to be a resident. But, I think there is true courage in staying. Staying, and speaking up, and making a difference. So, I’ve vowed to not leave, and to stay put, and to fight for things that I think are right. If you ever need someone to stand by your side, I’m here!

    • Class of 1980

      Yeah, and the jokes against North Carolina were really off base when you consider that more than 30 other states passed amendments long before North Carolina did. And of course all the jokes were south-bashing jokes.

    • aly

      I agree. We must stay and fight.

  • kat

    As a Californian, I’m rooting for you with all my heart.

    • aly

      Thank you!!

  • Caroline

    Another North Carolinian here. I just want to cry for you. I’m sorry. We tried so hard but it wasn’t enough to change the minds of some people.

    It makes me sick and angry to know that just because I happen to be a woman and my spouse happens to be a man, the state views my marriage as somehow more real than yours. Because that’s a damned lie. It’s got nothing to do with our genders. It’s love and commitment that make BOTH our marriages real.

    I’m so sorry I couldn’t chase away enough bears. I will keep trying.

    • meg

      This made me cry. Again.

      • aly

        Me too. Thank you, Caroline!

  • This: “Scores of people… got in touch to tell us that we are a valid family, that we deserve equal rights, and that they’re rooting for us.”

    made me cry. (I never cry.) and not actually happy-cry, even though it’s happy, but sad cry, because OF COURSE you’re a valid family. And it is so heart-breaking to me that not everyone can see that.

  • Reading about all this discrimination makes me so mad…I am not American nor do I live in the US, so there’s nothing I can do to change that, except extend you my support, my prayers and my hope that this will soon change. Because it will change, it has to.

    Argentina (my home country) passed the egalitarian marriage law in 2010. It’s not considered “gay marriage”because it’s no different than heterosexual marriage, it was a reform of the civil code where the condition that the union was heterosexual to be valid was eliminated, and issues such as name change, children’s name, etc were modified to include the changes. This would have seem impossible back in 2000, but it happened. So, keep the faith and continue fighting!

    Also, on a different note, your son’s song warmed my heart and that of my almost 4 year old daughter who asked me to replay it over and over and over ;)

    • aly

      Wow. That gives me hope! Thanks for sharing.

  • As (another) North Carolinian, I wanted to chip in, too. It was heartbreaking on many levels – for my LGBTQ friends, for my fiance and I (since I’m his next-of-kin on many health/job forms and they could be invalidated just as easily) – but mostly because 80 percent of my family voted for it. I had always known they were conservative but I didn’t realize they were blinded by it.

    I think my mom, dad, me, grandmother and cousin were the only ones who voted against and we were cancelled out by the other people we know and love. It’s hard for me, still, to reconcile people I have grown up with and respected with the kind of people who would vote for this kind of legislation. I lost a lot os respect for my family that day, and that hurts too.

    But I think, as full of bears as N.C. is, they’re mainly old, grumpy black bears from the mountains. They’re mean and loud but they drown out all the other little voices, of which there are actually more. I’ve lived here all my life and I really believe tides are shifting.

    • aly

      I agree. There’s a term for what’s going to happen: cohort replacement. As the old, grumpy, anti-LGBT people die off, the younger generations will take over and achieve full equality for us. I just hope it happens in my lifetime.

  • carrie

    This post has stuck with me, over 24 hours later. I didn’t comment yesterday b/c I didn’t know what to say – which I commented on the other post from Monday too. But I think it’s appropriate for both posts. I still don’t know what to say except that I stand with you, and am proud to take a stand with you and so many others.

    • aly

      Thanks, Carrie. That’s exactly what we need. Stand with us, speak up for us, and have the hard conversations with friends and loved ones who don’t understand why you support full equality for LGBT people.

  • aly

    I was away from the computer the day this posted so I didn’t really get to reply to commenters the way I wanted. So, this is a little late but THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU from the bottom of my big gay heart for all the love and support for the post, and all of the Pride week posts. APW is such an awesome, affirming community–due in no small part, I’m sure, to its kind and inspirational leadership–and the only place on the internet where I feel safe reading comments. Thanks for that, too.

    • Beautiful post, Aly. Your family is so loved.