Serving my country and city in the face of marriage discrimination
October 03, 2014
Editors' Note: This post was written by PFC Samantha Kish, who lives in Jarrell, TX with her wife Erin Kish. Samantha serves in the U.S. Army and is a volunteer firefighter training to be an EMT, and Erin is a speech therapist for children with disabilities. Samantha shared her story with Freedom to Marry and Equality Texas.
Last spring, I did something I've always wanted to do - I joined the U.S. Army, signing up to serve as a welder and machinist in the reserves. When I was younger, I watched in awe as my brother enlisted in the military, and ever since then, I've always known that I've wanted to serve my country.
I wouldn't have been able to enlist without the unending support I've received from the love of my life, my partner of six years - my wife, Erin. When I told her I wanted to join the Army, she understood why it was so important to me. And she was ready to stand by me, committed 100%, even as I left for basic training for seven months.
Now, Erin and I live in Texas, and we've just had the most amazing summer of our lives: In August, we got married. We celebrated with our family members, who mostly live in Michigan, we received a marriage license from Canada, where some of Erin's family lives, and we returned to Texas to embark on our lives together as married women.
This summer was amazing - but it would have been so much more amazing if our home state of Texas (or, for that matter, our childhood home state of Michigan) respected our marriage license. Because of constitutional amendments that deny the freedom to marry to same-sex couples like us, Erin is not recognized as my wife in either state.
It's nerve-wracking knowing that our state has no legal respect for our marriage - and upsetting that Erin and I aren't able to access all of the protections we should receive from the Department of Veterans Affairs, like a joint home loan, just because of where we live.
In addition to my work in the Army reserves, I'm in school for emergency medical training and firefighting - and I'm a proud volunteer firefighter right here in Jarrell, Texas.
My father has been a volunteer firefighter for as long as I can remember back in Michigan, and he has instilled in me a deep sense of commitment to protecting the community where you live. I love being able to serve my community as a volunteer firefighter.
But it can be dangerous work, and it's upsetting to think that if something were to happen to me, I can't be certain that Erin, who serves our community in a different way - by working as a speech therapist for young children with disabilities - will be protected. It's a real fear we have, and it's something that could so easily be remedied if only same-sex couples had the freedom to marry in Texas.
I love serving my community as a part of the volunteer firefighting force. I proudly serve my country as a part of the Army. And I have only been able to do both of those jobs because of the unending support I've received from my six wonderful years with Erin.
It's time that Texas respected Erin as my wife. It really is time that, across the country, we stop denying this fundamental freedom to so many loving couples who just want the same opportunities as everyone else.