I cry at weddings. What can I say? I’m a mush.
But yesterday, I cried because a dozen of my friends were rejected when they asked to make the same legal contract my husband and I made 29 years ago.
The Campaign for Southern Equality sponsored a “We Do!” rally here in Asheville. More than 300 people, including more than a dozen members of the clergy, turned out to support them.
It was a perfect day for a wedding, sunny and warm with just a slight breeze. Spring flowers are in bloom and the couples were surrounded by friends and family.
The only catch was that they’re not full citizens because they happen to love people of the same gender, so they were turned away.
Amy and Lauren run Be Loved House in Asheville. They’ve dedicated their lives to helping people who are homeless.
Elizabeth and Kathryn have been together 30 years and raised two daughters. They were arrested last year when they tried to get a marriage license and then refused to leave the Register of Deeds office. They were convicted of second-degree trespass and fined. So they’re convicted criminals. I tell them often I hope to dance at their wedding on the day they finally are allowed full rights.
“I hope I don’t need a walker to get to the altar,” Elizabeth told me. That was a few minutes before Kathryn stepped up to the microphone to sing “You are so Beautiful” to all of us who were there for them.
I told Elizabeth if she’s 90 and in a wheelchair, I’ll wheel her down the aisle.
I’ve known them for 10 years and sang with them in the choir for the first five of those years. I’ve prayed for them and members of their family as Elizabeth went through breast cancer and members of Kathryn’s family suffered the loss of a baby.
I’ve snuggled their dogs, petted their llamas and hugged both of them when they’ve been looked down upon because they love each other.
I think they’re two of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met.
And finally, Patrick and Mark. I met Patrick when he was executive director of the Red Cross chapter here. I was working for the newspaper and a former employee was arrested for stealing from the agency.
Unlike most executive directors caught up in something like this, Patrick took my call because he wanted to reassure donors that everything would be OK. In my decades of experience in the newspaper business, few executives had the courage to say anything other than, “No comment.” So I liked Patrick right away.
He and Mark lived several hours apart and were able to be together on weekends and holidays until Patrick retired earlier this year. Now they’d like to be married. I can’t see any reason why they shouldn’t.
I want people to see these faces and know these stories because these are real people who are being denied the right to the same legal protections and benefits I have, and the only reason they’re seen as legally less deserving than I am is because they happen to love someone of the same gender.
These are only six of the hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who are the targets of the discrimination the voters of this state etched into their constitution this week. Look at their faces, look at the way they look at each other and then tell me again why I can’t dance (and cry) at their weddings.
Leslie Boyd, a former newspaper reporter, is president of the health care advocacy nonprofit, WNC Health Advocates, founded in memory of her son, who died in 2008 because he couldn't access health care. E-mail her at leslie at lettersfromtheleft dot com or follow her on Twitter @leftyletters1, visit Letters from the Left on Facebook. For more information about WNC Health Advocates or to read Boyd's health care blog, visit wncha.org.