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Getting to “I DO”: Sharing Stories to Change Hearts and Minds

BT052914-ONLINE-1Over the course of the marriage equality movement, one key thing we’ve learned in state after state is that sharing our stories with others is critical. The single most powerful way to bring people to support civil marriage equality is by making the issue personal.

Marriage Equality USA recently launched “Getting to ‘I DO’: Our Journeys to Marriage Equality,” a collaborative project aimed at col­lecting and sharing a wide range of multimedia-rich stories about relationships, family, marriage, ad­vocacy, and equality.

Ted shares, for example, the bitter­sweet story of how marriage equal­ity came too late for him and Jack, his partner of more than 25 years. In 2009, Jack was diagnosed with cancer. Just days after a marriage equality lobby day in Albany that same year, Jack died. When the freedom to marry finally came to New York two years later, Ted—an ordained, former minister—noted his joy at having “the privilege of joining together the lives of two lov­ing persons,” even though he and his own “beloved” were denied that opportunity.

Sveta shares her journey to receiv­ing her marriage-based green card last year. She writes about a “surre­al” interview with USCIS in 2010. “Why can’t you just go to Russia?” an immigration officer asked her, after she explained, “I would be in danger as a member of a perse­cuted minority, if I were to be sepa­rated from my U.S. citizen partner of over a decade and deported back to Kazakhstan.” She continued, recalling the incident: “My wife was in the same room, but was not allowed to speak…I was asked to strike out her name and informa­tion as my spouse from my applica­tion for asylum.” Sveta concluded, “The Defense of Marriage Act ren­dered us legal strangers.”

Such stories are as varied and unique as the LGBT community. Many of the “Getting to ‘I DO’” stories focus on the joy of marriage itself, or how the authors felt the day their states finally recognized the freedom to marry.

We also have touching stories from allies, like Reenie, an interfaith minister who writes about how a burgeoning friendship with a les­bian seminary classmate led to ad­vocating for “same sex couples in their quest to be together.” Roger, a former Marine, shared a deeply personal story about his journey to support full equality for same-sex couples, and his regret that it took him so long to do so. Roger writes, “We don’t need to look backward for a chance to stand up for prin­ciples. Life isn’t about always be­ing right—I was wrong for a long time—but about learning from mistakes and making amends.”

Every story is unique, and we nev­er know which story will resonate with someone who is still unsure about marriage equality. By shar­ing your story today, you may be the change that helps someone fi­nally get to “I do.”

Browse our collection of “Getting to ‘I DO’” stories at cowbird.com/ marriageequalityusa/collection/ getting-to-i-do/, and then please share your own journey to “I DO” with us. Learn more at marriage­equality.org/gettingtoido/

Thom Watson, a leader in the nation­wide grassroots organization Marriage Equality USA, lives in Daly City with his husband, Jeff Tabaco.