When Christina Condos and D'Ambra Howard stood beside each other in Central Park on a chilly winter day in December as they declared their love for each other and said "I do," the snow that coated the park ground didn't bother them.
The women had flown up to New York earlier that week from Leawood, Kansas, where they have lived together for more than eight years. And they were excited to at last have the chance to legally marry - and have that marriage respected by the United States government.
"I don't think either of us ever envisioned we would even have that right in our lifetime," D'Ambra said. "What a difference a few years can make!"
The winter wonderland of New York was a stark contrast to their celebration 3 years before, when they traveled with some family members and friends to the island of St. Croix to promise their commitment and celebrate their life together. With their loved ones at their side, D'Ambra and Christina reflected on the life they have built with each other in Kansas and looked forward to many more happier years together.
"I think marriage suddenly mattered very much to us both once we realized we had each found the person with whom we wanted to spend the rest of our lives," D'Ambra said. "It's funny how the importance of that public declaration comes into focus once you meet that person."
When the women returned from St. Croix, of course, their home state of Kansas did not afford them any respect as a married couple - and even three years later, when they returned from New York, a legal marriage license in hand, Kansas still refuses to grant them any recognition.
Couples like Christina and D'Ambra are already doing the work of marriage in their home state of Kansas - and they are legally married and respected as such by the federal government, 18 other states, and the nation's capital. So why, they wonder, are they continually turned away by the state where they live?
Still, the couple is optimistic that soon their state will recognize their marriage and allow same-sex couples to tie the knot in The Sunflower State.
"It may take awhile in Kansas," D'Ambra said, reflecting on the incredible momentum we have seen in 2014, "but at this rate, anything seems possible."