As I sit here and type this blog post, my wife (that’s right, wife!) is unpacking the remainder of our wedding presents. I could not be happier to say that our family is well on its way to being built after the past two weekends.
Two weeks ago, we traveled to Vermont to have a legal wedding ceremony with a few of our friends and family. The ceremony was held at the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory (that’s right, Ben and Jerry’s). It was actually a beautifully perfect location. My sister and best friend preformed the ceremony in a charming little gazebo outside of the flavor graveyard. It was an incredible ceremony and it felt so wonderful to know that we were legally married in a state that recognized our marriage as equally as anyone else’s. Our reception was the factory tour that we went on after the ceremony. The people at the factory were incredibly welcoming and sent us on the tour for free and gave everyone in our party two free scoops of ice cream. It was pure perfection.
When Carla and I became in engaged, we knew that we wanted to go somewhere where we could be legally married. At the time, our home state of Illinois did not even grant civil unions to gay couples. The best we could do was to register as domestic partners. The wallet sized card that came along with this status as not much more than roommates did not satisfy our needs. We wanted to be married. Thinking about our options, we chose Vermont for its beauty and for the fact that it housed the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory. So the decision was made. We would head to Vermont to have a legal wedding ceremony and then come back home to celebrate with all of our friends and family. And then, this past June, civil unions became legalized in Illinois. We were so happy that the bill passed, however, for us it was simply not enough. There are so many people who challenge the legitimacy of our relationship and to us, a civil union still allowed people to view us as less than equal to other couples and other families. As we prepare to bring a child into our family, we want to do everything that we can possibly do to show others that we are equal to any other family. So while we are thrilled with the progress that the state of Illinois has made, we want more and we will not settle for less.
So we continued with our plans to head to Vermont. As we sat in the small town clerk’s office in Stowe, Vermont and filled out our marriage license, we both marveled at the fact that this loving act could be looked at with such hatred. This small act of two people who love each other starting a family is the cause for such violent protest and controversy. To us, nothing could have felt better and more right than to sit together and fill out a piece of paper that gives us the same legal rights as any other couple. It brought tears to both of our eyes and I was so happy that we had made the decision to go to Vermont. One day, I know that we will be able to do the same thing in our home state. One day, I know that this country will remember that separate cannot be equal. One day, I know that our children will be able to look at our family and know that we really are just like every other family. Until then, we will see ourselves that way and take comfort in knowing that those who love us know that our marriage is something to be marveled at.
After the ceremony in Vermont, we returned home to prepare for our wedding here in Chicago. The week passed slowly until we finally arrived at this past weekend. It was a beautiful fall weekend. The air was crisp and the sky was clear. The festivities began on Friday evening as friends and family gathered from across the country for our rehearsal dinner. The love in the room was obvious and the excitement began to grow. Carla and I said goodbye to each other after dinner and spent the next 24 hours in eager anticipation. The wedding itself was magical. It was an incredible moment and the love that I felt for Carla the weekend before in Vermont was matched by the love that everyone felt for us as a couple.
So many times during the night, I thought to myself about all those kids that feel like their lives will never be good or happy because they are gay. I so badly wished that somehow all those kids who have spent every waking minute feeling bad about themselves could see the love that surrounded Carla and me at our wedding. I wished that they could see the way people wanted to celebrate our love. I wished they could see the joy that was exploding from both of our hearts and the support that we received from everyone in that room. Because I know that if they could see that, they would know that it really does get better. It isn’t just something people say to try and make them feel better and the proof of it was sitting there in that room.
At the end of the night, Carla and I danced one final slow song together and a tight circle of our closest friends and family surrounded us. I looked into the eyes of the woman that I know is my soul mate and the person that I am going to spend the rest of my life loving and I truly believed that anyone who saw us at that moment would find it difficult to find a reason to say that we shouldn’t be allowed to get married. Of course I know better. I know that there will always be people who find a reason to make that claim, but in that moment of such love and support I just couldn’t believe that it was possible.
And now, Carla and I are ready to turn our attention back to the adoption process. We see our wedding gifts as a start to what we have happily dubbed as, “The Expand a Family Fund.” No matter what the world around us says, we know that we are going to offer a child an amazing home filled with love and stability and a strong sense of the power of family. And so we will continue down the road towards adoption as a happily married couple ready to deal with all that comes along because we know the strength of our marriage and of our relationship and we know that one day others will recognize it as well.