When Jeremiah Pyant took a vacation to Riviera Maya in Mexico with his boyfriend, Jeff Robertson, he knew it was going to be a special trip - six months prior to their trip, Jeremiah got a letter in the mail explaining that he and Jeff had won a special photo shoot package at a resort, and he was excited to take home beautiful portraits with the love of his life, Jeff.
When he and Jeff walked down the beach and were greeted with a rose petal aisle, gorgeous canopy, and a bottle of champagne, however, Jeremiah began to understand that the photo shoot was not happening - it was a set-up that allowed Jeff to make the trip even more special than Jeremiah dreamed.
Jeff ushered Jeremiah under the canopy, pulled out a white box, and explained that he couldn't imagine living without Jeremiah. He got down on one knee, revealed the ring inside the box, asked, "Will you marry me?" and then laughed, saying, "I don't know what hand it goes on."
Jeremiah was certainly surprised - skip to 3:30 in this video below for Jeremiah's delightful reaction to Jeff's proposal.
The couple, who live in Houston, Texas, got engaged on December 1, 2013 - but for Jeremiah, marriage was always a part of the plan, ever since the beginning.
"He told me from our very first date that we were going to get married," Jeff said, remembering their first dinner together. "He just knew right away, and told me out loud - I told him he was crazy."
The men had met several months before their first date, on an airplane. Jeff was flying home to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Jeremiah was the airline attendant on the flight.
"I was interested in him and wanted to say something, but I didn't know how," Jeff explained. "So I gave him my number." They eventually connected online and on the phone, and began talking very often. The next time that Jeremiah's work took him to Wisconsin, he and Jeff shared dinner, and their months of conversation evolved from a romance to a long-distance relationship. Jeremiah would go out of his way to book hours on flights that passed through or ended in Milwaukee, and he and Jeff fell in love.
Seven months after they started dating, Jeremiah moved in with Jeff in Milwaukee - and the couple is glad that they spent some time in a long-distance situation.
"It was really unique," Jeff explained. "I had never been in a relationship like that, but it allowed us to develop a lot of trust and ensure that we had the dedication to be together. Communication was especially important - and more than it does for couples who live close by, the time we had together really mattered - we really had to make it count."
Jeff and Jeremiah, who filed for a domestic partnership in Wisconsin before moving last February to Houston, plan on flying back to Milwaukee to have a wedding ceremony and declare their love and commitment to each other in 2015. They'll then head to Minneosta for a marriage license, since same-sex couples do not have the freedom to marry in Wisconsin or Texas, and return home to the Lonestar State.
But in Texas, Jeff and Jeremiah will not be viewed as a married couple. For all purposes in the state where they live, they will be seen as single men.
"It's painful," Jeff said. "We have all of these great plans, but then we're going to come back home and not be able to do all of the things we need to do. It's kind of scary - to mean nothing to each other in the eyes of the state is scary."
Jeff is particularly concerned since Jeremiah's job in the airline industry requires him to travel across the country and spend significant amounts of time in unfamiliar cities and states. The patchwork of marriage laws in this country mean that Jeremiah could be understood and respected as a married man in the morning and, after flying to state where same-sex couples are denied the freedom to marry, as a single man by the afternoon.
"For us to be legally recognized everywhere would make everything so much easier," Jeff explained. "There are so many what-ifs that you have to consider, and to have that burden off of our backs would be amazing."
"Marriage for mean is the epitome of a relationship between two people," he continued. "You have to always continue working on it and nourishing it while loving each other through every situation. We want to be able to do that in Texas."
Jeff and Jeremiah are excited to have the chance to marry - and plan many more amazing memories like the day they got engaged on the beaches of Mexico. But they need the security and dignity that all married couples across the country receive - they need the freedom to marry in their home state.