“Nothing says family like the word marriage”

As part of our new national education campaign Why Marriage Matters, we're telling the stories of gay couples to show that they want to get married for the same reasons as anyone: love, family, and commitment. You can see more profiles at WhyMarriageMattters.org/stories.

ForChris Williams and Juan McCoy, family definitely comes first. "As parents,we do everything the kids want to do, from tennis to basketball to just beingout in the yard," says Juan.

They'vegot five children aged 9 to 14. "We eat dinner together around a big tableevery night, just like a typical TV family from the 50's – which is not sotypical these days," says Juan. But as a gay couple, Chris and Juan can'tget married in their home state of Maryland.

Thepair has been together for 13 years. They met at work and still work together –and their relationship is as strong as ever. Juan says of Chris, "Hebrings balance to my life. Whenever I'm agitated he always calms me down. Ithink I balance him out too." Recalling Chris' recent birthday, Juan adds, "I love him beyond what I can actually express. We're whole separately,but we're something even better when we're together."

Thecouple is very involved in their church, where Juan is an ordained reverend andChris is a deacon. "We would love to stand up in our church and have ourpastor marry us – and he's looking forward to doing so," says Juan.

"WhatI love about Juan most is his spirituality," says Chris. "Spirituality is what brought us together, and has so far solidified thisrelationship. That's the foundation on which our relationship is based."

Inaddition to their church, Chris and Juan have gotten plenty of support fromtheir families. Chris' mother likes to say that she's "gained anotherson." But she would certainly love to see them walk down the aisle. "Being able to say that we are married would bring some comfort toeverybody who is a part of our life," Chris says. "They would say,'Ok well, now they're not living together, they're married."

"Iwant the kids to be comfortable going to school and knowing that our family islegitimate, and our family is just as valid and important as anyoneelse's," Juan says. "If the children say, 'This is my father'spartner,' then you have to go through the explanation of 'What is a partner?'or 'What is a significant other?' It makes so much more sense to say 'husband'instead stumbling for the words to explain the nature of our family."

Beingprotected in emergencies is also something that the couple thinks about. WhenChris had to go into the hospital to have his appendix out, Juan had to saythey he was his brother to see him. "It's just inherent in the wordmarriage that there are certain things that you don't have to prove beyond the factthat you are actually married," says Juan.

ButJuan and Chris prefer to think about happier things that might come up. "As fathers, it's important for us to set an example for our children, andshow them just how important stable relationships are," says Juan. "Ihope that they can look at our relationship, our marriage, and pattern theirmarriages after what we've built in our home."

Chrissums it up: "Family is love, family is our kids – and nothing says familylike the word marriage."

Freedomto Marry is proud to be working with Equality Maryland to win marriage inMaryland so that couples like Chris and Juan can marry.