On January 7th, five LGBT couples will apply for marriage licenses in Decatur, Georgia as part of the WE DO Campaign. Knowing they will be denied, they take this action as an expression of love and as a call for full equality under the law.
One of the couples has shared their personal story that you can read below. (I will have posts with all of the couples stories up soon.) You can send all the couples that will apply for marriage licenses a message of support here.
I fell in love with my best friend.
Who doesn’t want to be able to think/feel/say those words? Doesn’t that meet all the sage wisdom we’re given when it comes to love? If only it was that simple. My best friend was in the midst of ending a 25-year marriage, had six kids – yep, six, and…was a woman. And if that wasn’t complicated enough, I was in medical school on a military scholarship planning to make the Air Force a career.
Fifteen years later, I’m still in love with my best friend. She has traveled with me from residency in North Carolina to fellowship training in Arizona to an academic position in Missouri and most recently to private practice in Georgia. It meant leaving friends, homes we loved, adjusting to new jobs and new cities – never easy.
Those six kids have grown up and are on their own. Two are overseas with their families in Korea and Qatar. The others are stateside – two in North Carolina, one in Arizona and the youngest in Florida soon leaving for an Air Force remote tour in Korea. Two graduated West Point, much to my chagrin as an Air Force Academy grad. Five have graduate degrees. There are five grandkids and one on the way. Fifteen years ago, I wasn’t sure they’d ever be able to get their minds around our relationship. Time, consistency, and most importantly, love, have a way of opening hearts and minds. I am “DB” (short for Doctor Beth) and Sally is “GMa” and Skype allows us to keep in touch across miles and time zones.
My Air Force career aspirations ended with an honorable discharge under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” After enduring almost two years of threats to be outed to the military and with significant concerns for my own safety, it was with great sadness that I outed myself to the military. It took another two years for the Air Force to investigate and discharge me. During that time, 9/11 occurred and I was still in limbo. I was certain the Air Force would realize as an academy graduate and physician I had more value in uniform than I did being discharged – regardless of whom I loved. My discharge paperwork arrived a month after 9/11 and had been signed on 9/10.
We’ve experienced having to present our will, our mortgage and bill receipts showing both of our names so that Sally could qualify for health insurance through my job. Despite no change in my dependent status, I had to produce the documents annually even though my married colleagues never once had to produce their marriage certificate. When I pointed out the obvious discrepancy, I was told I should be grateful to have benefits and if I refused to produce the documents, Sally would not be insured. Ten states and the District of Columbia would marry us – we’ve never managed to live in any of them either. And even if we were married in one of them, our marriage wouldn’t be recognized by other states or the federal government.
I believe if people hear our stories they may recognize our lives aren’t that much different than their own. I worked toward and lived to see the end of DADT. Now I am working for marriage equality for all Americans. I have served our country in uniform. I minister to the sick and injured children of our community. I deserve equal treatment under the laws of my country and the state where I choose to live. I challenge anyone to tell Sally and me that we deserve less.
My story is complicated. I have already been married once before. In fact, I was married for 25 years. That marriage yielded 5 biological children and 1 adopted child. They are all grown now and most have families of their own. My children are the upside of my marriage—a huge and immeasurable upside, but there was a lifetime of downsides. Not the least of which was the downside of living a heterosexual lie.
I met Beth at the YMCA where I worked in Richmond, Virginia. We were co-workers and became friends—seriously. Then we fell in love and it was messy. But we weathered the court appearances, her removal from the Air Force, and living apart during her residency. We had a “Commitment Ceremony” on October 20, 2001; just after the horror of 9/11. It was beautiful and memorable, taking place in a dear friend’s fall-colored yard surrounded by friends and a couple of family members. It was an occasion we wanted so we could show those who mattered that we were committed to spending our lives together. We made promises to each other in that company. Those public promises made our private ones matter more.
We are normal, moral, god-fearing people who would like to have the rights we are due as citizens of the United States. Beth served our country in the Air Force for goodness sakes! We are neighbors. We belong to churches. We volunteer for good causes. We deserve the rights of other citizens of this country. We deserve the right to have a marriage ceremony recognized by our community, our state, and our United States.