Pride 2017: Two Years Later, What It Means to Be Wed

By on Jun 19, 2017

MARRIAGE LESSON LEARNED “Don’t give up. If you keep fighting for something, even when faced with so many that would prefer you stay where you are, keep going.”

Crystal Zimmer, 27, who works in the restaurant field, and Lena Williams, 37, a heavy equipment operator for Johnson Controls, Cincinnati.

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RELATIONSHIP Together almost seven years. Ms. Zimmer’s aunt played matchmaker; they were the first female couple to marry in front of a Hamilton County judge. “It was one of the most emotional experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” Ms. Williams said.

MARRIAGE “Relationship-wise, there is more respect that we have for one another,” she said. “We face life challenges together as one.”

MARRIAGE LESSON LEARNED “We don’t run away from issues. We work through them because we promised to spend the rest of our lives together. No one’s going to have your back like your wife!”

Cortney Tucker, 27, product manager, and Breanne Brodak, 28, senior underwriter, White Lake, Mich.

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Amanda Abraham

RELATIONSHIP Met through Ms. Brodak’s college friend. Together five years before they married. First female couple in Oakland County, Mich., to marry at the courthouse, on June 26, 2015.

MARRIAGE “Has brought us closer together,” they said in an email. “We also welcomed our beautiful daughter in December 2016.”

MARRIAGE LESSON LEARNED “Communication is the key to having a successful marriage.”

Tom Fennell, 52, freelance legal translator, and Christopher Brown, 42, proofreader, accountant, Omaha.

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RELATIONSHIP The couple met in a bar. They were together six and a half years before they married on Aug. 29, 2015, next door to their home on the Missouri River in Omaha.

MARRIAGE “There’s a feeling of more security,” they said in an email. “It’s much different to use the word ‘husband’ rather than ‘friend’ or ‘partner.’ It makes one feel that one is fully accepted by society, even if not by individuals.”

MARRIAGE LESSON LEARNED “Making a life commitment to a person can bring more freedom than confinement, especially when this commitment is recognized and supported by family and society.”

Julia Troxler, 61, retired, and Barbara Schwartz, 65, federal employee, Fairhope, Ala.

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RELATIONSHIP Met on Match.com and were together for nine and a half years before marrying on June 26, 2015, at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta.

MARRIAGE “Has made us more open and able to bring our whole selves into the relationship,” they said in an email. “Being out in the open with our relationship, and actually being accepted by most people we meet, has made us less afraid.”

MARRIAGE LESSON LEARNED “Hang in there and do the work. It takes maintenance. It doesn’t run on its own.”

Natalie Marie Leslie, 34, and Christina Marie Leslie, 34, aircraft mechanics, Taylor, Mich.

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RELATIONSHIP Met at work and started dating in 2009. “We rushed down to Detroit to the Wayne County clerk’s office the day it became legal in 2015,” Christina Leslie said. “We were so worried that something might happen and we would lose our chance.”

MARRIAGE “Marriage has given us a sense of safety,” she said. “No one can invalidate what we have. Our daughter Alice was born shortly before we were married. Since Natalie gave birth before the ruling, I had no parental rights. Because we got married, I was able to legally adopt our daughter.”

MARRIAGE LESSON LEARNED “Waiting so long to get the same privileges as others has taught us to work hard and fight for our rights. We know marriage is not something to be entered into lightly. It takes work and commitment, and we have a bond that is stronger than any other I have ever known.”

Marge Eide, 79, retired, and Ann Sorrell, 80, retired, Ann Arbor, Mich.

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RELATIONSHIP The couple, together for almost 45 years, met as players on opposing softball teams. They were married on June 26, 2015, in Ann Arbor.

MARRIAGE “While we have never been completely closeted, neither have we been totally ‘out,’ ” Ms. Sorrell said. “When Marge was hospitalized recently, I was acknowledged as the next of kin, which had never before been the case. We anticipated some backlash, but so far that hasn’t seemed to happen.”

MARRIAGE LESSON LEARNEDBeing legally married is much more significant than we had imagined, not just for the legal protections, but also for our self-esteem and society’s acceptance/inclusion,” she said. “That struck us the first time we saw L.G.B.T. celebrants waving not only the rainbow flags but U.S. flags as well. We gained an even greater appreciation for our relationship, and we feel fortunate that same-sex marriage became a reality in our lifetimes, something we never dared to dream was a possibility.”

Kenneth Denson, 40, and Gabriel Mendez, 35, in Dallas. Owners of Red Pegasus Comics.

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RELATIONSHIP Met at a gay youth group at their local college and have been together for 16 years. In 2005 the couple gave themselves a “nongovernmental commitment ceremony” where they exchanged vows, “because it wasn’t legal yet in Texas and that’s what people were doing,” Mr. Denson said. They married legally in 2012 in San Francisco, and once more at the Dallas County Courthouse in 2015.

MARRIAGE “Kenneth now owns half of my student loan debts,” Mr. Mendez said. “And we are now recognized locally as the ‘gay comic shop guys.’”

MARRIAGE LESSON LEARNED “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” he said. “Always have an open dialogue. Learn to compromise. Have a sense of humor. And live someplace with two bathrooms.”

Julie Bliss, 48, personal trainer/stay-at-home mother, and Traci Bliss 47, nurse, Bay City, Mich.

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RELATIONSHIP The couple, together for 16 years, met at church and were married at Base Camp Fitness Company in Bay City in September 2015.

MARRIAGE “It has unified us in a way that so many other couples take for granted,” Julie Bliss said. “We changed our name to Bliss on our wedding day. That was a big deal, and it’s what finally made us feel like we would be recognized as a couple.”

MARRIAGE LESSON LEARNED “It has been the greatest honor for us to be able to be legally married and to enjoy those benefits, something we don’t take lightly. For us, to be able to share in all of the benefits that marriage has to offer is not something that we take lightly because for too long, it had been denied to us.”

Terrence McNally, 78, playwright, and Tom Kirdahy, 53, theatrical producer/lawyer, New York City.

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Walter McBride/Getty Images

RELATIONSHIP Mr. Kirdahy produced a panel discussion that included Mr. McNally. “Terrence claims it was love at first sight,” Mr. Kirdahy said. “I knew something special was happening.” They consider themselves married since December 2003, when they had a civil union in Vermont. In 2010 they were married in Washington by Mr. Kirdahy’s college roommate. Mayor Bill de Blasio renewed their vows on the steps of City Hall in June 2015.

MARRIAGE “Has given us 24/7 security,” Mr. Kirdahy said. “There is no more profound experience than repeating those marriage vows publicly and to one another. When we said ‘til death do us part,’ we meant it. The profundity of those words struck us as never before. You think it. You hope it. And now you’ve pledged it. We’ve never been more in love.”

MARRIAGE LESSON LEARNED “That we should have had the right to it all along, and future generations of L.G.B.T.Q. people can dream bigger and more freely than ever before.”

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