Jennifer and Lexi promise their love in traditional Quaker wedding ceremony in MD
January 17, 2013
This November on Election Night 2012, Jennifer Chapin-Smith stood at a podium at an Election Night party in Ann Arbor, MI, her attention fixed firmly on the results from Maryland, since she grew up in Silver Spring, MD. The Vote for 6 campaign, which worked this fall to secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Maryland, was getting results in from the election, and initial numbers looked optimistic.
Jennifer leaned into the microphone and announced that results were looking positive in all four states where marriage was on the ballot - Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. The crowd at the party cheered, and as the applause and shouts quieted down, Jennifer left the podium, went over to Lexi, her partner of over 13 years, got on one knee, and proposed. "Will you marry me?" Jennifer asked.
Jennifer and Lexi met in 1999 at an LGBT student group at Northwestern University, where they both studied. Soon after they began dating, and they moved in together in 2001. The women got engaged in 2004, and they planned to marry in 2006 in a traditional Quaker wedding. Jennifer is a member of a Quaker group, Adelphi Friends Meeting, in Maryland, and the tradition has always been an important part of her life and her family's life.
In 2005, a few months before their wedding in Maryland, Jennifer and Lexi went to the county court house to request a marriage license, although they knew they would be denied because of the state's anti-gay laws. Despite being denied a license, they hosted a ceremony in early 2006, becoming the first same-sex couple to marry under the care of Adelphi Friends Meeting in Maryland. Over 140 people gathered for the wedding, where friends and family members shared messages of love and support for Jennifer and Lexi.
"My friend's dad gave a message about how important marriage has been in the Quaker tradition," Jennifer explained. "His message was that when we find our special someone, having them in our life makes it possible for us to do the good work we are meant to do in this world. This is so true for me. I'm able to work for peace, equality, and justice because Lexi takes such good care of me. She feeds me when my bloog sugar is low, she coomforts me when I'm sad. Even in her sleep, she sometimes throws an arm over me and says, 'I love you.' You know it's true love when your wife will say it in her sleep."
This year, on January 5, 2013, Jennifer and Lexi followed up on their Election Night proposal with a legal ceremony, again in Maryland - and this time, they walked in and out of the county court house, marriage license in hand, in less than ten minutes. They again had a wedding in the Quaker tradition, but this time with a simple ceremony and close friends and family. They used the traditional Quaker marriage promise - as Quakers, they couldn't take oaths or vows - and modified the message to establish that they promise to "continue to be loving and faithful wives."
Now, Jennifer and Lexi live in Ann Arbor, MI, where Lexi is in school for her PhD at the University of Michigan and Jennifer works as a writer for the Michigan House of Representatives Democratic Caucus Communications Office. Although their marriage is not respected in Michigan, it was important to them to be legally married.
"It is a commitment before the divine, our family, and our community to love and be faithful to each other for the rest of our lives," Jennifer said. "I care for her and she cares for me, in good times and bad."