My husband Scott and I got married on June 19, 2014. Yet the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal for every American on Friday made us feel like we were married again since the emotions were so wonderful and powerful.
The reaction from the people around us on Friday was amazing. We had many supportive phone calls and text messages, while people at work were congratulating us. The support and positivity that we have from our peers is amazing. It is wonderful to know that people are actually taking our marriage seriously, which was not always the case. I love my husband and I could not think of him in any other way.
The text messages I received were the most emotional. One was sent to me five minutes after the news came. The letters were all capitalized saying: "THE SUPREME COURT MADE THEIR DECISION!! YOU ARE NOW LEGALLY MARRIED IN ALL 50 STATES!" To which I replied, "I KNOW, I KNOW!! THANK YOU!" There were a plethora of other messages stating similar phrases of happiness, love and support. I was also overwhelmed with phone calls, including from people with whom I haven’t spoken to in years. Afterward, I loved watching my Facebook news feed as people I grew up with changed their profile pictures to include the rainbow flag; I would never have expected many of these people to be supportive.
My family has reacted with mixed emotions about the ruling. A close family member called Hillary Clinton’s support of same-sex marriage a "media stunt." On the other hand, I heard support from other family members, even though some of them have shown me disrespect in the past. It comes to show that though one person may disagree, five more people come around. My mother cried tears of joy for me. She considers my husband as one of her own children. She stands up for not only what she believes in, but even more for what I believe in. She has grown as a mother and a person over the past couple of years.
Scott and I are happier than we have ever been. We have celebrated our love for one another with everyone we know, and to be able to walk down the street as a married couple is the best feeling in the world. We are no longer known as a same-sex marriage. We are known as just married. Just like our parents, grandparents, straight allies, we are finally recognized.
However, I would be lying if I said it was smooth sailing. There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure LGBT people have full rights. And on the personal side, even though our marriage is as valid as anyone else’s, it can still be difficult to introduce each other as husbands. For example, when I see someone I have not seen in years, I introduce them to Scott as my husband and they react as if they are shocked. After a year of practice, Scott and I are getting much better at introducing each other and we have learned to brush off negative reactions.
I live in one of the reddest states in America. In 2004, 76% of my fellow Oklahomans supported a constitutional amendment opposing same sex marriage. I know more people are now in favor, but I could not predict how a similar vote would go today. I'm glad that is not an option. I am even happier to have met people in college who will be running for office in the future. Every one of them supports and fights for human rights.
After the Supreme Court ruling, our governor, Mary Fallin, said the government "shoved the decision down our throats." There are plenty of Republican officials in this state who spend our tax dollars fighting against gay people, yet they are raising the University of Oklahoma’s college tuition by 5% due to our state cutting funds to education. This is the fourth year in a row that they have done this. Education is seriously needed in this state because these people are stuck in 2004 worrying about issues that don't matter.
A big obstacle is religion, which in Oklahoma is pretty fundamentalist. I am a proud Christian and the Bible is an amazing book filled with love, love stories, love of family and love of life. What Christians need to realize is that the only thing they need to do is share love. But I daily come in contact with any many who will share hate as will share love.
I'll give you an example. On the day after the Supreme Court ruling, I found that a teacher at my high school shared an article and made a comment on Facebook comparing LGBT people to demons, hypocrites and liars, and said our consciences are dead. This teacher also unfriended me on Facebook for being gay. This is a teacher who is friends with her students on Facebook, so they are seeing this hate and discrimination. High schoolers learn from their teachers and peers throughout high school. When a teacher, who is trusted, makes a derogatory comment of the LGBT family, the students will take that and use it against people who are gay. This is destructive for young people who feel they are trapped in an atmosphere of intolerance. The only way we can stop this is with love.
However, there is hope. In Oklahoma, I have seen more religious officials conducting gay marriages, and many who disagree with the unnecessary law that was passed "preventing religious officials from having to officiate same sex marriages." At our pride celebration a week ago, I counted representatives from five churches who marched in the parade. They were throwing water bottles and beads to the people watching and cheering. There were two married mothers, one carrying their daughter on her shoulders, wearing "God wants me to be married" shirts and holding hands. There will always be hope. Hope and faith have always been the driving forces of Christians. So we as the LGBT community should share the same hope and faith as the Christian community to bring each other together, not drive each other apart.
Scott and I are beyond ecstatic about June 26. I can now travel anywhere in this country without having that feeling in the back of my mind that wonders: "What if Scott or I get sick? What if we have to go to the hospital and someone denies us to see the another?" We don’t have to worry about that now. But we still have to fight for adoption and surrogacy laws, laws protecting LGBT people against hate in the work place or at school or even just walking down the street, gender neutral restrooms, against gay conversion therapy and much more.
We all need to stand up and stand strong. The way we continue to fight with power is to fight with love. Compassion for the people who are brainwashed in not believing who we are is who they are. We are people. We love the same way they do. We read with the same eyes they do. We speak, hear, eat, and sleep all in the same way. Do they marry just for sex? No (at least I hope not). They marry for love; they marry to start their own life; they marry for one another. We marry the same way.
I love being apart of this amazing family filled with allies, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. We are the people who are the most open and honest. We love each other, and we are proud to be who we are. Let's continue this and disregard every negative comment. We are amazing, so lets continue to #BETRUE and let love continue to win.
Tanner Williams, 19, is a junior double majoring in General Management and Nursing at the University of Oklahoma. He is also a pole vaulter on the track and field team. On June 19, 2014, he married his husband, Scott Williams, and the two live together in Norman, Oklahoma. Tanner can be reached via email at email@example.com, on Facebook, Twitter (@jtannerwilliams), and Instagram (Will2Tan).
Story editor: Jim Buzinski (firstname.lastname@example.org)