Meet Matthew Sheffield and Trey Goff. Along with Robert & Michael, they want to have the freedom to marry in their home state of Mississippi. Michael and Robert have been together for nearly 10 years.
On Thursday, July 18, the two couples participated in the Campaign for Southern Equality's WE DO Project.
In the campaign, same-sex couples in the south apply for marriage licenses in their home communities and provoke denials. The actions of the WE DO campaign - now in its fifth phase - demonstrate what it looks like when marriage discrimination is enforced.
Today's action took place in Tupelo, Mississippi.
It's the last stop in a nine-day tour across the state of Mississippi, from Gulfport to Poplarville to Hattiesburg to Jackson, of couples standing up for full equality under the law to marry the person they love. The marriage license office in Tupelo is just miles away from the headquarters of the American Family Association, an anti-gay organization that actively seeks to exclude same-sex couples from marriage.
Before the action, the supporters of the WE DO campaign stood together in a circle for an inter-faith prayer service for reconciliation.
Campaign for Southern Equality Executive Director Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara explains that the prayer circle operates as a chance for those taking part in the action to reflect on their faith or reflect on their conscience - emphasizing that the WE DO campaign takes place in both a faith-based and secular context.
Matthew and Trey applied for their marriage license at the county clerk's office.
Matthew spoke out about the importance of the campaign. Robert and Michael were also denied.
Matthew & Trey and Michael & Robert were denied the freedom to marry today in Mississippi.
The Mississippi community rallied behind the two couples this morning.
Learn more about the Campaign for Southern Equality HERE.
They declared their love for each other and asserted that they should be able to have their love and relationship respected in their home state - as same-sex couples in 13 states across the country already can.
He said: "I'm applying for a marriage license because, as an LGBT person from Mississippi, I want to stand up and speak out on behalf of other LGBT couples and individuals that can't," Matthew said. "I want the LGBT kids growing up all across Mississippi to know they are not alone." Because of anti-marriage laws in Mississippi, Matthew and Trey were denied their marriage license.
This morning, prior to the action, Rev. Beach-Ferrara wrote about the importance of standing up for the freedom to marry in states across the South, describing the "veil of silence that surrounds LGBT life here." With today's action, she said, "the veil will be lifted."
But actions like the ones they took today with the WE DO campaign add to the evidence that it's time for the freedom to marry nationwide - including in states like Mississippi.
As Matthew & Trey and Michael & Robert applied for and were denied the freedom to marry inside the marriage license office, a community of individuals surrounded the office and provided love and strength to support their courageous action. We applaud the couples and their supporters and encourage continued peaceful action demonstrating love, commitment, and the desire to express that commitment in their home communities. This victory is in reach: By winning the freedom to marry in more states, strengthening public education efforts, and championing exciting grassroots action like the WE DO Campaign, we know that we can achieve a national resolution - and that couples like the two who were denied this basic human freedom today are essential to the movement.