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We Have Come A Long Way…

…since Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

But until Theresa and Alia can legally get married then we still have a long way to go.

So this is what I would like to add to the dream speech…

I have a dream that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin…

…or by who they choose to love…

…but by the content of their character.

Here’s to having a dream.

And here’s to Alia and Theresa.

Love is the only thing that matters…

Dora and Emily got married on July 19th, 2009 in front of all of their friends and family at the Brazil Room in Berkeley. By choosing to get married, Dora’s two children, and Emily’s one child, now have two moms.

I have photographed a lot of weddings, but this was the most amazing wedding I have ever seen. It wasn’t because of the dress, or the shoes, or the flowers, or any of the other details that we easily get lost in. It was because of all the love, the acceptance, and the incredibly beautiful children who saw nothing wrong with two women, of different races, getting married.

Their wedding gave me so much hope for the future. And this week, after hearing Judge Walker’s decision on Proposition 8, the proposition that denied same sex couples the right to marry, I was filled with hope all over again.

I don’t know how anyone can look at this photo and tell me that these people should not have the right to be legally recognized as a family. If only all children were raised in such a loving environment… the world would be a much better place.

Please Join Me On The Campaign for Equality…

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I am lucky that in April, I get to marry the person who I love most, but I am heartbroken because so many couples are refused that same legal right….

…the right to be recognized by society as a couple, and more importantly, the right to be recognized by the government. The article below, from Nolo, proves that marriage is a legal matter… not a moral or religious matter.

If you would like to support equality for all, then please send a message to The Supreme Court here: http://www.couragecampaign.org/page/s/divorce

To read more about the rights and benefits of marriage… please read on…

Marriage Rights and Benefits

Learn some of the legal and practical ways that getting married changes your life.

Whether or not you favor marriage as a social institution, there’s no denying that it confers many rights, protections, and benefits — both legal and practical. Some of these vary from state to state, but the list typically includes:

Tax Benefits

  • Filing joint income tax returns with the IRS and state taxing authorities.
  • Creating a “family partnership” under federal tax laws, which allows you to divide business income among family members.

Estate Planning Benefits

  • Inheriting a share of your spouse’s estate.
  • Receiving an exemption from both estate taxes and gift taxes for all property you give or leave to your spouse.
  • Creating life estate trusts that are restricted to married couples, including QTIP trusts, QDOT trusts, and marital deduction trusts.
  • Obtaining priority if a conservator needs to be appointed for your spouse — that is, someone to make financial and/or medical decisions on your spouse’s behalf.

Government Benefits

  • Receiving Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits for spouses.
  • Receiving veterans’ and military benefits for spouses, such as those for education, medical care, or special loans.
  • Receiving public assistance benefits.

Employment Benefits

  • Obtaining insurance benefits through a spouse’s employer.
  • Taking family leave to care for your spouse during an illness.
  • Receiving wages, workers’ compensation, and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse.
  • Taking bereavement leave if your spouse or one of your spouse’s close relatives dies.

Medical Benefits

  • Visiting your spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility.
  • Making medical decisions for your spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment.

Death Benefits

  • Consenting to after-death examinations and procedures.
  • Making burial or other final arrangements.

Family Benefits

  • Filing for stepparent or joint adoption.
  • Applying for joint foster care rights.
  • Receiving equitable division of property if you divorce.
  • Receiving spousal or child support, child custody, and visitation if you divorce.

Housing Benefits

  • Living in neighborhoods zoned for “families only.”
  • Automatically renewing leases signed by your spouse.

Consumer Benefits

  • Receiving family rates for health, homeowners’, auto, and other types of insurance.
  • Receiving tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities.
  • Other consumer discounts and incentives offered only to married couples or families.

Other Legal Benefits and Protections

  • Suing a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium (loss of intimacy).
  • Suing a third person for offenses that interfere with the success of your marriage, such as alienation of affection and criminal conversation (these laws are available in only a few states).
  • Claiming the marital communications privilege, which means a court can’t force you to disclose the contents of confidential communications between you and your spouse during your marriage.
  • Receiving crime victims’ recovery benefits if your spouse is the victim of a crime.
  • Obtaining immigration and residency benefits for noncitizen spouse.
  • Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family.

Note that if you are in a same-sex marriage in Massachusetts or a domestic partnership or civil union in any of the states that offer those relationship options, many of the benefits of marriage won’t apply to you, because the federal government does not recognize these same-sex relationships. For example, you may not file joint federal income tax returns with your partner, even if your state allows you to file jointly. And other federal benefits, such as COBRA continuation insurance coverage, may not apply. Consult a lawyer with expertise in this area to learn more about the rights and benefits available to same-sex couples.

I pulled the information above from Nolo a website that claims to be the “nation’s oldest and most respected provider of legal information for consumers and small businesses.”

My heart hurts today…

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On November 4th, 2008, Californians voted not to allow people of the same sex to get married, even though the California Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to prevent humans of their basic right to marry the person they love.

My fiancé, Arann and I were at the Westin Hotel in San Francisco on election night, with our dear friends who worked so hard on the No on 8 campaign to protect equality for all. The huge ball room was packed with couples who were so nervous that their right to marry the person, who they loved most in the world, would be taken away. The room was thick with emotions, as we all waited and waited and waited. The numbers coming in were not good. And eventually, they told everyone to go home because we wouldn’t have an answer until the morning… but we all knew.

And today my heart hurts.

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Arann and I are supposed to get married on April 4, 2009. But I called him from the airport today and said I didn’t think we should get married. And he said he was thinking the same thing.

When we first got engaged, I wasn’t so sure about the idea of having a wedding. But slowly the idea grew on us and we started to understand the importance. A wedding is not a marriage, but it is a ceremony that brings together all the love and support of everyone in your community, as you take this huge step forward.

So, the more we thought about the meaning of our big step forward, the more we felt it was important to have our community with us, as we vow to care for each other for the rest of our lives. It is especially important to us that my grandparents, who will celebrate their 65 wedding anniversary next year, are there to pass on their advice and inspiration to us.

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So, we picked a day and we started making plans. A hike, followed by a ceremony, followed by a reception with a collective art show, with the theme: Advice, followed by good food and dancing. We thought that would be the perfect way to enter into the next stage of our lives as a married couple.

But as we stood there election night, surrounded by people whose hearts were breaking as they were told their marriages would no longer be accepted… we started to question why we should have the right to marry, when other people don’t, just because their body parts are the same.

It doesn’t make any sense to me. In a world of such hatred and fighting, why wouldn’t we want to encourage and support people who want to build their community? Why don’t we want to encourage people to promise to love and care for each other for the rest of their lives? If it is about God, I was taught that we are not supposed to judge, so… then let God judge, if that is what you believe.

Same sex marriages will not hurt you.

The pesticides people spray on their lawns that washes into the storm drains, and into the rivers, and pollutes the water, and kills the fish, and breaks down the food chain… will hurt you. The SUV’s people drive that consume a lot of gas and spit out a lot of carbon dioxide that heats up the planet, and melts the glaciers, and raises the sea levels… will hurt you. But allowing people to love the person they choose to love in their own homes… will not hurt you.

So, Arann and I would like to get married. We want the love and support of our community, but we don’t want to get married until everyone can. And so today, my heart hurts and my eyes are sore from crying because I have a better understanding of what it feels like not to be able to marry the person you love.

If you believe in equality for all, please take a moment and sign this petition:

http://www.petitiononline.com/seg5130/petition.html

Thank you for your support.

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Yay California! Fingers crossed for Novemeber… or better yet, Vote ‘No’ on Prop 8!

On May 16, 2008 the California Supreme Court overturned the ban on Gay marriage. I heard the report in the car as I was driving and I immediately called one of my best friends who has been working for Equality California. They are trying to get people to Vote “No” on Proposition 8, in order to legalize Gay marriage in California permanently. We excitedly talked about what this decision will mean for California and for the thousands of gay couples who could not marry the person they loved. This is a concept that makes no sense to me. Why, in this world of so much negativity, violence and suffering, why wouldn’t we want to encourage people to commit their lives to caring for and loving another person… regardless of their gender?

Well, luckily, for the time being, California is taking a stand and making it legal, and so I wanted to show my support however I could. I have been nagging my friend to please spread the word to all her lesbian and gay friends that I want to photograph a Gay wedding. Finally, Jessamyn, another photographer, contacted me and told me about the competition she held on her blog, asking gay couples to share their story and then she would pick the best story and photograph their wedding for free. She told me that she had picked the winners but that she was so bummed not to be able to photograph all the weddings…. and I said, “Pass them to me, I’d love to.”

So Wednesday afternoon, I drove to SF and met and photographed the weddings of two different couples. Here are my photographs of one of the ceremonies along with the story they submitted for the contest:

Our story: we met 22 years ago and have lived together 20 years. I was previously married and had a 4 month old baby boy when my husband died of a sudden heart attack. I met Marguerite when Michael was almost 4 years old, and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have found love again. Marguerite had not had a serious love affair before me, although she had been out as a lesbian for several years. We were introduced by a mutual friend–someone I had known for many years and someone Marguerite met while she was delivering the mail! It was love at first sight and we have been together ever since. I am now 63 and Marguerite is 55. Marguerite is the first-born daughter of Chinese immigrants and she has now quit the post office and is a pharmacist. My background is Southern US and Caucasian, and I have been in CA since high school. I am a pediatric nurse practitioner. We both lived in Berkeley for many years before we met and still live in our home in north Berkeley. When our son Michael was 9, Marguerite adopted him and we have been his official parents since then, although he considered her his other mom before that.

We never thought of ourselves as the marrying kind. We hadn’t been involved in pushing for same-sex marriage in the past, but during the marriages in 2004, we both realized it might be for us. We had just decided to make a date at City Hall when the decision to annul those marriages came and we put the marriage idea behind us. I told our son it would never happen in my life-time. The day of the Supreme Court decision, I just didn’t even want to know about it, because I knew the decision would be against us. I learned of the decision via e-mail while at work, and I immediately texted Marguerite and asked her to marry me. She responded yes! We both could not believe how happy we were, and how suddenly we became the marrying kind! I felt legitimized and normal–it was and is a great feeling. Our son said, “Now maybe I could someday get married,” and we found out he had decided that he couldn’t get married until we could get married.

We looked for rings and finally decided–similar but not identical bands. I wanted a new dress, and found a beautiful dark blue dress that I love. Our friends and family are so happy for us and have been really great and we are looking forward to both the ceremony and the party.

We decided on SF City Hall for two reasons–it is totally beautiful and it is totally historic. If it weren’t for Gavin, we wouldn’t be getting married at all. We have friends who stood in line for 12 and 13 hours in 2004 to get married at City Hall, and the people at City Hall were just wonderful, kind, generous and we want to honor them and the City of San Francisco by getting married there ourselves. And we love the City–we always feel we can go anywhere and be welcomed as a couple.

Thank you so much for your offer. Pictures can be so special–ours will be snapshots taken by friends and hopefully by someone at City Hall so we can get one of our whole party. It’s hard for me to express just why I think what you are doing is so great, but it has to do with that feeling of being normal and legitimate. And the positive regard from people like yourself is like being bathed in sweet warm sunlight, after having been in a dark cave for awhile. You are very kind to make this offer and I know all of us, whether selected or not, truly appreciate you.

As Martha and Marguerite walked down the stairs after their ceremony, the next couple waiting to get married with their wedding party, started clapping and congratulating them. And that is how it felt the whole day. It was so fun to watch all the other couples who were there standing in line and waiting excitedly with their partners. It felt so good to be even a small part of such an important part of human right history.

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