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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.

When the days were warm and long, and tomatoes were at their very best…

Jennifer and Ramsey got married.

Their love-filled event took place at the Banta Residence, in Lucas Valley, with the help of the fantastic planning duo, Green Girl Events. Their wedding was significant to me, not just because it took place on a long summer day, with a ridiculous amount of fresh heirloom tomatoes, and in a gorgeous setting, but because their love story deals with a subject that is close to my heart.

Jennifer and Ramsey have both experienced recent hardships, which have taught them the value of life and the importance of living life as much as possible before it is gone, which includes marrying the person you love most… but then came politics.

Jennifer has a sister who is a lesbian. And one day after Ramsey asked Jennifer to marry him, Jennifer’s sister lost her basic human right to marry to the person she loves because of Proposition 8, in the 2008 election.

Heartbroken for her sister, Jennifer did not feel it was fair for her to be able to get married when her sister did not have the same right. But her sister, who is also responsible for setting Jennifer up with Ramsey, gave Jennifer her blessing. And at their wedding, Jennifer’s sister delivered the most incredible toast that brought everyone to tears… including me, which made it very difficult for me to focus my camera.

But hopefully their story will help focus the attention that is needed to change this ridiculous law that prevents people from obtaining basic human rights. And hopefully someday soon everyone will have the right to experience the overwhelming love and support that you feel when you marry the one person you love most in the world… just like Jennifer and Ramsey got to feel on this warm, long day, when the tomatoes were at their very best.

One last reason why I loved photographing this wedding, was because I had the help of another awesome photographer, Jessamyn Harris, who was second-shooting for me. Because I knew I had such a great back-up photographer, who was covering the day with her digital camera, I was able to play more with film, which always makes me happy.

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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