WATCH: Why Raymie wants to call Matthew his husband in Tennessee
February 13, 2013
At the beginning of the year, the Campaign for Southern Equality toured across the South performing "We Do" actions, where same-sex couples requested marriage licenses and provoked denials in order to illustrate the discriminatory marriage laws in these states.
LGBT couples in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina took a stand for the freedom to marry in Stage 4 of the campaign, which encompassed more cities and states than ever before.
One of the couples was Matt and Raymie, who have been together for 7 years in Tennessee. After being denied a license, Raymie delivered a rousing, moving speech about why he wants to be able to call Matthew his husband. He said, in part:
We believe that the union that we have together deserves a better term than we have for it right now. When I introduce Matthew, sometimes I call him my partner, and usually, when I use that word, I get a blank stare that asks me to fill in the rest - like what sort of business trade do we own together. That word doesn't seem appropriate.
Sometimes I call him my boyfriend, and the only other boyfriend I've had was someone I dated for a couple of months.
But Matthew and I have been together for seven years. The thing that I call him most is my 'husband,' when I talk about him - we have rings that we had made together. But when I do call him my husband, that is a lie. We're not married. We're not able to marry in this state.
When I think about Mattie, he is someone who supports me like a husband. He's someone who loves me like a husband. And when my father died, he was right beside me - like a husband. We know these things to be self-evident, and that's what we call each other, but at some point, we want the state to recognize that as well so that that is a truth that I can go out and say, and it doesn't have to be a lie.
The action of requesting and being denied a marriage license is a brave step for many of these couples, who live in states with completely unsupportive, discriminatory laws and who often live in unwelcoming, unaccepting communities.
The organization's Executive Director, Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, spoke with Freedom to Marry before Stage 4 of the campaign kicked off on January 2. She explained the significance of the action, saying, "Through the ritual of approaching a marriage license counter, these couples are doing something that they've been told their whole lives that they have no right to do. I think you can't really underestimate the power of that. When people begin to voluntarily - and with some risk - take action that directly confronts discriminatory laws at the very locus, at the place where they are enforced, something very powerful happens. These discriminatory state laws, which are typically invisible to the general public, are actually enforced, and that's very powerful to witness."
Watch the latest video from the Campaign for Southern Equality, featuring Matthew and Raymie's action, below. And make sure to check out the Campaign for Southern Equality HERE.