By Melissa Morris, Campaign Manager, Why Marriage Matters-PA
I’ve never been what anyone would call “traditional,” but I am a sucker for a good love story, so standing in front of my friends and family to marry the person I love was a no brainer once I realized Vinnie was the one with whom I wanted to spend my life.
I knew I had to find the perfect way to pop the question, and what more symbolic day for romance than Valentine’s Day?
It had to be sweet and personal but not too over the top; Vinnie doesn’t like over the top. So I planned a picnic in the middle of February. I found the perfect spot: a comfortable blanket on our living room floor. I covered the furniture to look like grass and put pictures of bunnies and flowers all around to give a sense of the outdoors. I filled a picnic basket with goodies and wine and put on soft music.
After eating I told Vinnie that I had an amazing Valentine’s Day gift, but in order to get it, Vinnie needed to answer a series of questions related to our relationship, each sealed inside an envelope. Things like where we met and first dates and little tokens of affection we had shown each other over the three years we had been together.
After successfully getting through the questions – my heart racing faster and faster with every envelope opened – Vinnie finally made it to the end. The last task involved picking the box that indicated how much Vinnie loved me. Fortunately, Vinnie chose the box labeled “more than anything in the world.” As Vinnie opened the box to see a ring, I got down on one knee, already filled with tears of joy and anticipation. When the ring was unveiled, joy filled both of our faces, and I asked Vinnie to make me the happiest woman in the world.
We called family and friends all over to share the news. Everyone was overjoyed because they had been a part of our life and shared in our love for the past three years.
After sharing love and congratulations, every person asked the same question: “Where are you getting married?”
Despite living, working, and sharing a life together in Pennsylvania, Vinnie and I couldn’t get married in our home state because we are both women. We’ve built a home together where hundreds of people have laughed and cried and broken bread, but in the eyes of the law, our commitment isn’t worthy of marriage. Despite Vinnie’s roots in Philadelphia, and her job as a police officer protecting its residents for over twenty years, she isn’t granted the same freedom as other Pennsylvanians to marry.
So, sadly, we left Pennsylvania to be able to marry. We brought a handful of our friends and family to our nation’s capital to swear to love and honor each other forever. We didn’t have the matriarch of Vinnie’s family, her aunt Big Morris, with us because she doesn’t travel well any more. My daughters, Angel and Ashley, couldn’t make it with my young grandchildren. Dozens of other friends and family sent cards and called, and we made sure there were pictures, but it didn’t heal the pain of not having them there to share in our happiness.
As citizens who are dedicated to our lives and our work in Pennsylvania, we’re hurt that our state not only prevented our family and friends from being a part of our actual wedding day, but also refuses to acknowledge the legal marriage license we went elsewhere to attain.
Vinnie and I met, grew to love each other, built a strong core of family and friends, and chose to get married. Our story is not so different than that of our straight friends, except they didn’t have to leave town to celebrate their love and commitment. I couldn’t love my wife any more than I do right now if she were a man. We support each other, we care for others in our community and we love this state. What will it take for Pennsylvania to show its love for us in return?
Melissa Morris is manager of the Why Marriage Matters-PA campaign. She is on staff at the ACLU of Pennsylvania.