June 26, 2013 will likely go down in history as a day that many Americans - especially gay and lesbian people - will be able to recall forever. Everyone has a story about where they were, what they were doing, and how they felt when the United States Supreme Court published its decision that it has struck down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which for so many years denied legally married same-sex couples more than 1,000 protections and responsibilities that marriage triggers at the federal level.
For Ashlie and Jennifer Langlinais, however, their memory is especially sweet: On June 26, they were sitting in a room at the courthouse in Portland, Maine, filling out forms for their marriage license.
The women had recently flown from their home in Austin, TX to Portland, which they had chosen as their destination to get married, since their home state of Texas denies same-sex couples the freedom to marry. Their wedding was scheduled for June 27, 2013, their 3-year anniversary, and so the day before, they were filling out the application for their license.
Just as they were completing the paperwork, Ashlie received an alert on her phone: It was the CNN app, bringing her and Jennifer the amazing news that the Supreme Court had reached its decision in two landmark marriage cases. They quickly wrapped up the paperwork, left the room, and sat on the seats of the court house, reading the news about what had happened.
"I just had tears rushing to my eyes as we read that DOMA had been overturned," Ashlie said. "We were so thrilled and we just sat there for a few minutes taking in the moment. It was surreal timing - and that made it all the more special."
The next day, on their anniversary, they were married by a notary public in Portland.
"It was a small, intimate, and beautiful ceremony," Ashlie said. "And the knowledge that we were legally married meant everything to us."
The intimacy of their wedding day took them back to their very first date, three years prior. It was a marathon first date - coffee became dinner, dinner became a movie, and the movie became hours of talking nonstop.
"We talked and laughed, and there was never an awkward silence or forced conversation," Jennifer said. "Neither of us wanted the date to end: We just clicked."
They fell in love quickly, moving in together shortly after. They've lived together in Austin ever since.
"Jennifer is my rock and the person I trust most in this world," Ashlie said. "I don't know what I would do without her. We have been by each other's side through good and bad, and we have worked endlessly on this relationship together."
When Ashlie and Jennifer returned to Texas after their wedding in Maine, they hosted a ceremony for more than 50 of their closest friends and family members, on October 13. Ashlie's friends and family drove in from Louisiana, where many of them still live, and Jennifer's family, many who live in Texas, were there to cheer on the happy couple.
Both women's parents walked them down the outside aisles of the venue, and Jennifer and Ashlie walked toward each other. "Our relationship has always been an equal partnership, and we wanted to symbolize that within the ceremony," Ashlie explained.
The women wrote their own vows, and they were thrilled to be surrounded by all of their loved ones as they declared their love for each other.
"Being able to share our love and commitment with the people we care about most in the world was incredible," Jennifer said. "It was emotional and overwhelming in the best way possible. We felt so much love and support from everyone, and I think having a wedding just made everything feel more real and concrete for everyone involved. It was, without a doubt, the happiest day of our lives."
But despite the beautiful wedding, Ashlie and Jennifer know that in the state of Texas, they are seen as single women. Although they are married in the eyes of the federal government and in 18 states across the country, Texas denies their marriage the same respect and dignity it provides to legally married different-sex couples. Laws that deny them this respect are hurtful and scary to Ashlie and Jennifer, who feel as though their home state is rejecting them.
"We love Austin, but we hesitate to put roots down here because state law does not recognize our marriage," Ashlie said. "We don't feel comfortable building our lives together here. Momentum has been shifting, but we know that we may leave Texas at some point to live in a place that respects our marriage and where our family will be protected."
Couples like Ashlie and Jennifer shouldn't feel as though they are not at home in the state where they live - in the state where Jennifer grew up. But when states deny the freedom to marry to loving, committed couples, they are denying them the security and protection that all people deserve. They are denying them not only the tangible protections of marriage - but also the basic dignity that comes alongside marriage.
"Marriage is the pinnacle of commitment," Ashlie explained. "It's promising to be there for each other no matter what. It's knowing that Jennifer will be taken care of if something were to happen to me or vice versa. We have always known that our relationship is real and valid - but being able to refer to each other as wife is so satisfying."
"All of the other terms just never felt right - just never felt like enough," Ashlie continued. "But wife is perfect. Wife is universal. Wife is what we are to each other."