Let’s Celebrate Our Unions: Love Stories
By Shaley Howard, PQ Monthly When talking about same-sex marriage, many people automatically turn their attention to the politics and social acceptance of LGBT equality. How often we forget that behind all the politicking are everyday individuals who simply want to have their love of another person recognized and honored. Here weâ€™ve collected some personal stories from a few same-sex couples and their family members. Even though homophobia was often experienced on some level, the stories of romance, dating and love they share are universal â€” full of tender, loving, and often humorous moments. Dwight Adkins and Bob Speltz met in Portland at a volunteer event called Hands on Portland Day in 2000 but didnâ€™t have their first actual date until five years later in 2005. Despite their own struggles with the concept of marriage and societal intolerance, they are currently happily engaged and plan on wedding later this summer. Said Adkins: â€œWe've been blessed to each have families who have been supportive of our relationship and loving beyond measure. The struggles for us have come as a result of living in a country where the so-called â€˜moral majorityâ€™Â has regulated the human rights of others they deemed inferior or unfit. We've since witnessed public opinion about marriage equality shift from very negative to increasingly positive in just over a decade. Both of us remember the passage of Measure 36 in 2004 as a definite low point in Oregon. Seeing those bumper-stickers that said â€˜Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Womanâ€™ emboldened us to get more involved in the LGTBQ community and deepen our ties to organizations like Basic Rights, Q Center, Our House and others.â€ â€œI had to work through my ambivalence and anxiety about marriage. I've witnessed friends and family marry and later divorce. It was hell to see people you loved go through that. Why would I get married and risk failing at it? I thought dating and living together seemed like a perfect commitment. If it didn't work out, you each just move on and find someone else.Â Did LGBTQ folks really need marriage?â€ asked Speltz. â€œMy feelings about marriage changed soon after Dwight was injured in a serious car accident about 14 months ago. That experience helped me learn to live with my insecurities and recommit to marriage as a public promise of love, responsibility, and commitment.â€ Lauren Reini and Holland Mitchell met seven years ago at Gaycation and just recently married on March 21, 2015. Holland shared the excitement and thrill of meeting the person who would eventually become her wife. â€œI was living in Alaska at the time but had come to Portland for a winter break. My friends and I were out dancing when I noticed Lauren, at 6'2" towering over all the other girls. I quickly made my way across the dance floor to get a closer look. She must have been pretty impressed by my sweet dance moves because I had her number by the end of the night! I only saw her out one other time before I headed back to Alaska. After I got home I proceeded to stalk Lauren on MySpace. (Yes, MySpace.) After a couple months of texting and talking on the phone, I somehow was charming enough to convince her to come to Alaska for our first date. I couldn't believe this super hot babe had agreed to buy a plane ticket and fly all the way out to Alaska to hang out with a woman she barely knew. Waiting at the airport for Lauren's arrival was one of the most nerve-racking moments of my life. I remember standing at the gate, shaking with fear and excitement. We made our way to baggage claim; my heart and mind were racing. I remember watching bags go by feeling nervous and insecure. Lauren leaned in and laid a juicy lip lock on me. That kiss set the pace for the rest of our relationship.â€ Brad and Jeff Tait were married July 5, 2014. Back in 2013 Brad thought he had bought the perfect birthday gift for his then-boyfriend Jeff. Â It all started when Brad bought Jeff a ring for his birthday in January. One afternoon he was chatting online with his best friend Sarah. She asked whether he had given any thought about the present he was getting Jeff, whose birthday was right around the corner. He said heâ€™d been batting around a few ideas, but hadnâ€™t settled on anything yet. A couple hours later, he sent Sarah a message saying he just bought Jeff the most incredible ring heâ€™d been admiring for months. â€œA ring is NOT a birthday present,â€ his friend responded. â€œWhat do you think youâ€™re saying giving your boyfriend a ring?â€ They decided then and there Brad wasnâ€™t buying Jeff a birthday ring â€” but an engagement ring. â€œAfter buying the ring, I reached out to one of Jeffâ€™s friends in Orlando to help plan the best way to propose,â€ Brad said. â€œJeffâ€™s friend knew the perfect spot to propose in Epcot Center â€” a little pier in the Italy Pavilion overlooking the iconic Epcot dome. Starting about four days prior to the proposal, I gave Jeff a greeting card each day expressing appreciation for the different facets of their relationship â€” friendship, trust, love, etc. Since Jeffâ€™s birthday was less than a week away, he assumed these cards were leading to that. But, on the evening of February 2, 2013, I gave Jeff his final card on that pier. All that was written inside was â€” Will you marry me? Jeff was stunned but immediately said yes.â€ â€œWe are so grateful to have amazingly supportive family and friends who gave so much.â€ Jeff said. â€œMy older brother built a â€˜wine boxâ€™ for our ceremony made from a hundred-year-old wood from a barn on our parents property. The idea behind the wine box is that inside, thereâ€™s a bottle of wine, two wine glasses, and letters we wrote to each other just before the ceremony talking about our feelings about marriage and what we hope for each other over the next ten years. At our ceremony, our officiant discussed the purpose behind the wine box, and we locked it in front of all our guests. In ten years, weâ€™ll open the box and share our letters with each other over the bottle of wine. Or, in the event we encounter a really difficult situation that puts our marriage at risk, we open the box earlier to remind ourselves why we chose to marry each other.â€
â€œMy feelings about marriage changed soon after Dwight was injured in a serious car accident about 14 months ago. That experience helped me learn to live with my insecurities and recommit to marriage as a public promise of love, responsibility, and commitment.â€ Bob Speltz, far left, on his partner, Dwight.
Laramie and Aubree Holliman met at a big lesbian house party. Aubree was sitting on a couch with a baseball hat pulled down over her face and Laramie was immediately intrigued. A short time later Laramie was filling a glass at the kitchen sink and felt someone standing behind her. She turned around and saw Aubree. â€œAs a classic super outgoing Leo, I just opened my mouth and started talking about the first thing that came to my mind,â€ Laramie said, followed with, â€œâ€™I saw a stinky corpse flower earlier at a botanical garden. Theyâ€™re from the Amazon, and they bloom a giant 5 foot tall lime green phallus with a red lily like bloom, and they produce a dead human smell which spreads for miles, every time they bloom, every 7 years.â€™ Aubree looked nonplussed then carefully and quietly said, â€˜Iâ€™m just waiting for a glass of water.â€™â€ Two years later they were engaged. The struggles they faced prior to getting married were primarily due to Laramieâ€™s own family dysfunction and homophobia. â€œMy mom never had a proper wedding, so she experienced a great deal of personal conflict the whole year prior to our wedding. Specifically, she experienced her conflict by yelling and cursing at my sweet stunned face. Two of my siblings refused to come, because they didnâ€™t want to be in the same room with my father.â€ Holliman explained, continuing, â€œThe one gay related issue for me was that my mom and her two sisters decided not to tell my grandma about the wedding. I sent her an invitation against their wishes, but she had had a stroke, so she couldnâ€™t read the invitation without assistance, nor could she come without a great deal of assistance. It wouldâ€™ve meant a lot for me to have her there because she had actually been quietly more supportive of me since coming out than anyone else in my family. But they thought she would be wrecked if she â€˜found outâ€™ that I was gay, out loud. Aubreeâ€™s mom and dad are fantastically supportive and accepting now but back then they didnâ€™t behave as if it was a â€˜realâ€™ wedding. She referred to it as our commitment ceremony the year prior and for several years afterwards.â€
Lauren Reini and Holland Mitchell met seven years ago at Gaycation and just recently married on March 21, 2015.
Zoe Duncan-Doroff is the daughter of Sue Doroff and Holly Duncan. â€œGrowing up, I didnâ€™t think that my home situation was any different from those of my friends, and I was never concerned that my family was lacking in any way. My moms were married in a not-legally-recognized wedding before I was born in 1996, and then again in 2004 when gay marriage was briefly legal in Oregon. Although their marriage was not legitimate throughout most of my childhood, I was still given a very rewarding and loving upbringing. I have done a lot of cool things in my 17 years, but by far the coolest was rallying on the steps of the United States Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act on March 26, 2013. My moms were legally married March 26, 2014 in Hawaii. I will never forget the mixed feelings I experienced during their wedding â€” how incredible it was to see them finally receive the recognition they had been awaiting literally my entire life, yet also how ordinary it felt. My moms had always been married in my eyes and we had always been a real family. Iâ€˜ve realized that because of my unique family I actually have much more than my peers. Not only do I intrinsically get to be part of the vibrant LGBTQ community but I am also in the thick of a powerful worldwide movement. And I can also pride myself on having a better-than-average gaydar.â€
â€œIâ€™ve done a lot of cool things in my 17 years, but the coolest was rallying on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act on March 26, 2013,â€ says Zoe Duncan-Doroff, far right.