Editors' Note: This story was originally published at Equally Wed and was written by Kirsten Ott Palladino. Read more of the story, see more photos, and watch a video from the ceremony at Equally Wed.
From their dedicated words to each other to their intimate kisses caught on camera, it's easy to see that Michael and Robert Crawford-Shorty are deeply in love. Their love and commitment shined through in every layer of their wedding, held in 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. The impact of the beautiful ceremony is only heightened when it's clear that Michael and Robert have tremendous support from their parents and grandparents.
The Atlanta men were registered as official domestic partners with the Fulton County Courthouse on October 29, 2010. They married two years later in a church wedding on October 20, 2012, at First Metropolitan Community Church. The grooms included traditional wedding touches, such as the lighting of the unity candle (performed by members of their wedding party) and the blending of turquoise and lavender sands to represent their union.
Next, the grooms jumped the broom, a ritual carried through history from slavery, when black slaves in America were not legally allowed to marry. For slaves, the broom-jumping was their binding covenant with each other and their community. For modern-day husbands Michael and Robert, the act has a double meaning since they reside in Georgia, a state that does not extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples.
"The thought that marriages between same-sex couples will hurt the idea of marriage baffles us," Michael told Equally Wed. "If a man and a woman are married and in love, how would the love I have for my husband affect their relationship? We would like to make sure we are given the same rights and privileges as married heterosexual couples."
"Marriage equality is important to us because the foundation of our country lies on the words, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,'" Robert added. "Love falls under the premise of 'pursuit of happiness.' Love knows not a color, gender, sexuality, religion, or anything else that discriminates."
Robert wrote in his, "Michael is everything to me and more. Often when I reflect back over our relationship, tears form in my eyes. His smile alone lifts my spirits, and his presence places my soul at ease. He is my glimpse into heaven and an earthly representation of God’s love for me. He pushes me to always strive for greater never settling for mediocrity. He is my calm in the midst of the storm of life."
"Robert is one like none other," Michael wrote in his note to his husband. "I love Robert because he doesn’t let anything or anyone deter him from the calling of what God has predestined for him. He is sweet, strong, short and sensitive to all my needs. He unselfishly gives all that he has to everyone who he comes in contact with, always showing them the better side of every situation."
Robert and Michael were thrilled to be able to publicly declare their commitment to each other in their church in front of all of their loved ones. But they know that because they live in Georgia, same-sex couples like them do not have the freedom to marry. Someday soon, they hope that Georgia joins the 16 other states across the country where same-sex couples can marry. As the country continues moving forward on marriage, they know that their presence in Georgia - and the visibility of their commitment ceremony - is invaluable.
"Georgia is the state where we pay taxes, shop, live and entertain," Michael said. "The state tells us that our money is good, but that our love is not. We find it disheartening to know that while we are able to adopt children in the state and hold political office, we're not able to be married as recognized as a married couple."