When Beth Herndon and Robin Huskey met on an online dating site 10 years ago, it was love at first email: Beth was living in Atlanta; Robin was in Columbia, SC, and after three dates they decided they were certain that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. For the next year, they dated long-distance, taking turns commuting the four hours between Columbia and Atlanta before Robin ultimately moved to Atlanta full time.
Marriage had always been very important to both women; they knew that they wanted to declare their love and commitment for each other in their home state - and, significantly, in their church. When they found that their minister in their church said he would not perform the ceremony, they found a new church home at Central Congregational United Church of Christ in Atlanta, GA. There, they found their relationship affirmed by the ministers and the congregation, and in a wonderful show of support, the choir director and choir members from their previous church (in which Beth had sung) joined the Central choir to sing together at the service!
In front of more than one hundred of their family members and friends, Beth and Robin promised their commitment to each other, and in that ceremony, they watched as their loved ones passed a flame from candle to candle until it came to Robin and Beth, who lit their own unity candle. That was July 29, 2006.
"We felt all the excitement and stress that every couple feels planning a wedding," Beth said. "We felt married just like all other couples - except that our state and federal government didn’t recognize it."
Robin added, "It was frustrating to check 'single' on the forms when I would go to the doctor’s office or file our taxes. We had joint banking accounts, mortgage, car insurance, cats; we were each other’s beneficiaries for 401K and our wills; and we alternated holidays with extended family just like other married couples. Thankfully, my job benefits at Emory University allowed Beth to be covered on my insurance - but because of DOMA, it was provided post-tax and considered taxable income, unlike my married straight colleagues."
As soon as DOMA was repealed last year, Beth and Robin began planning a trip to New York City to receive a marriage licensce, even though they knew that Georgia still would not respect them as married.
"It was important to us to have the federal recognition, as well as the responsibilities and benefits of marriage,” Robin and Beth said. "It turns out that DOMA was repealed at just the right time for us to get married on the lucky 7th anniversary of our church wedding – July 29, 2013. It was a wonderful way to renew our vows and celebrate our anniversary!"
Robin and Beth's NYC wedding was very simple - with Robin's cousin as their witness, they stood in City Hall as they said their vows, declared "I do," and signed the paperwork that allowed them to be legally married - and respected as such - in the United States.
"At first we were really downplaying the trip to NYC and didn’t even tell most of our friends and family we were going to get married," Beth said. "We didn’t want to take away from the specialness of our church wedding, and we already considered ourselves married. To our surprise, when we were in City Hall getting our license, it really struck us how very important this was and how much it means to be legally married. City Hall was an amazing collection of people getting married – sailors, immigrants, young couples, old couples, gay couples, straight couples – what America is all about – freedom and the freedom to marry."
After the brief ceremony, the couple enjoyed a champagne sailboat ride. The next day, the couple enjoyed wearing their matching “I got married in NYC” shirts and sharing their great news with everyone they passed on the street. Now, they treasure both of their wedding days in different, special ways.
Beth and Robin have been thrilled to watch as court after court has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples - and they're hopeful that soon, they'll experience that same joy in their home state of Georgia. But until then, Georgia continues to disrespect their marriage - and the couple is committed to speaking out until their marriage is respected and all couples are free to tie the knot in The Peach State.