Terri Miller and Cindy Simms

Terri Miller, Ed.D., a high school administrator, and Cindy Simms, a ceramic artist, make up one of many longtime gay and lesbian couples who offer a shining example of love and commitment as we fight for marriage equality. Together 35 years, they knew early on it was for keeps. Terri tells of the beginning of their relationship: "Cindy and I met when I was 25 and she was 22. She was a warm, personable and beautiful young woman. I was skinny and shy. We were attracted to each other immediately. After meeting and visiting each other for about a week in 1971, we decided to disappear for a few days into the green hills of eastern Oklahoma to be alone with each other... We fell deeply, passionately in love each other, and we knew we would be spending the rest of our lives together."

The couple has designated a durable power of attorney for health care and a living trust to afford each other some protection to their joint assets and properties as they approach their golden years. Without the protection that marriage affords, couples can be left to face the possibility that, in the unfortunate case of a tragedy, their loved one will be seen as complete strangers in the eyes of the law.

After working for 42 years, Terri worries that she will not be able to leave Cindy her teacher's pension or social security. These are benefits of marriage that are often crucial to the surviving partner's well-being. And although it does not cover the myriad of protections afforded couples by marriage, Freedom to Marry's partner the Human Rights Campaign worked with Congress to secure two important protections that assist gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans in the Pension Protection Act signed into law on August 17, 2006. The act includes provisions allowing non-spouse beneficiaries to roll over retirement benefits, and adding non-spouse beneficiaries to the retirement plan hardship distribution rules.