When Lauren Shockley met Meredith Smith, they were living on opposite sides of the country. "I was visiting a friend of mine from high school in Cincinnati, and she lived next door to Meredith,” Lauren explained. "The first thing we did when I arrived was pick up Meredith and head to this jazz club, Schwartz Point. Everyone jokes that night was our first date because we practically ignored our friend and spent the whole night talking!"
Meredith and Lauren hit it off right away, and spent Lauren’s last day in Cincinnati together before she flew back to Los Angeles. "We corresponded daily on the phone and via e-mail after I left. A month later, I just had to come back to Cincinnati to see her again!" Lauren said. The two visited each other a few more times before Lauren decided she wanted to relocate to Ohio to be close to Meredith. "Only three months into our courtship, I packed up my bags and left California.” Lauren said, "I moved in with Meredith and have lived there ever since!"
Years later, the couple still resides in their family home in the hip Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati. They have two daughters, 11-year-old Saige and 10-year-old Amira, who have welcomed Lauren as their parent. "I hate thinking that without the freedom to marry in Ohio, that our daughters can see that people might think less of our family.” Meredith said, “We are a tight knit family, who loves and supports each other, and it is heartbreaking to know that your daughters might have a difficult experience because of the state refusing to recognize the four of us as a family."
In Ohio, married same sex couples are treated as legal strangers. With the freedom to marry, families like the Shockley-Smith’s not only face challenges legally, but emotionally. "Marriage equality in Ohio would mean that our daughters never have to feel second class to other families." Lauren said, "We love Cincinnati, and give so much to our community. It is not acceptable that we are not treated the same as all other married couples."
Meredith and Lauren’s wedding day was nothing short of picturesque. It was held outdoors at Six Acres Bed and Breakfast, just a few miles from their home. In the late afternoon, a half hour before the ceremony was scheduled to start, it began pouring down rain. However, minutes before the start, the clouds parted, the sun came out, and the sky was gorgeous.
"We watched, from separate suites of course, as dozens of our friends and family members swept rain from the porch and dried off 200 chairs!" Lauren said. Their vows were officiated by Lauren’s uncle, who is a Presbyterian minister. "It was vital to us that our family was a big part of our ceremony." Lauren explained, "We also had a quilt wrapping ceremony, where quilts made by Meredith’s mother and my grandmother were wrapped around Meredith, myself, Saige, and Amira to signify the joining of us as a family."
The ceremony concluded with the four of them jumping the broom. That evening, the guests and the newlyweds danced the night away and camped out in the lawn at the bed and breakfast together.
Despite Ohio not providing the freedom to marry for all couples, the Shockley-Smiths are not interested in moving to a state that does. "We recognize that there is an enumerated list of obstacles that could be removed by being legally married in our state, but it isn’t priority enough to leave our family, friends, and community." Meredith explained. "Nothing could stop us from having a fun, family packed dream wedding. It was so important to us to name our love and commitment to one another, in the presence of our family and community."
"I think our ceremony was important to the gay community in Cincinnati. It built visibility for committed same sex couples, and we showed that it’s possible to have the love and support of your families and friends in your marriage." Lauren explained.
"We want Ohio to see, hear, and recognize our family. It’s time for a sign the tide is changing in the direction of equality – and Ohio should be leading that charge."
Families like the Shockley-Smiths are a reminder of why it’s time to extend the freedom to marry to all committed couples in Ohio.
This story has been cross-posted from Why Marriage Matters Ohio, a public education campaign to start the conversation and grow public support for the freedom to marry in Ohio.