For over a year, Carol Mason and Nicole Leaf have been officially living as a married couple - after a beautiful commitment ceremony near their home in Charleston, SC, they legally married in New York, where Nicole was raised and where her family still lives.
In the year since they received their legal marriage license, Carol and Nicole have rejoiced in seeing the freedom to marry come to more and more states, and in seeing the United States Supreme Court strike down the central part of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.
But Carol and Nicole know that seeing their marriage granted federal respect is not enough - they need their commitment respected in South Carolina, where they live and work together and support their five-year-old daughter.
"We want our family to be legally protected in South Carolina," Carol explained, referencing the feeling of insecurity that many same-sex couples in the South feel because their state denies respect to their marriage, stripping them away of 'married' status - and all of the protections that come with that - as soon as they enter South Carolina state lines.
"We want Nicole to be legally recognized as our daughter’s step mother," Carol continued. "We want to know that in the event of an emergency, we can get to the other if they are hospitalized."
More than anything, Carol explained, is that she and Nicole want younger people in South Carolina to understand that the American ideal of "liberty and justice for all" is something worth standing up for - something worth fighting for and speaking out for and working toward.
"We want to be able to tell our daughter that her moms’ marriage is no different than anyone else’s," she said. "That she - and anyone else in South Carolina - can marry whoever they loves when they grow up."