Learning to Persevere


My family trying to pose for a picture on campus at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. My brother never knows how to smile in pictures, so we reminded him of his favorite commercial.

As a little kid, I liked to imagine what it would be like to be at my parents’ wedding. I imagined being their flower girl, watching them walk down the aisle at their ceremony, and dancing at their reception.

My parents got married two years before I was born, on September 2, 2000, at Lake Park in Milwaukee, Wis.  My parents are not glamorous people — at the wedding they held a luncheon and a small outdoor ceremony while overlooking Lake Michigan. It wasn’t a legal wedding, but Wisconsin was a halfway point between loved ones all over the country.

In my mind, my moms have been married for a little more than 17 years. According to the state of Michigan, they’ve been married for less than four. This drastic difference is due to a 1995 statutory ban on same-sex marriage that kept my parents and all other same-sex couples from getting a legal Michigan marriage license.

Despite lack of an official license, they went on and had that wedding, moved to Ann Arbor, and raised two kids together. They taught my brother and me how to play euchre, how to hug properly, how to persevere, how to be crazy, and how to love. They taught us that no matter what, we could be whoever we wanted.

Throughout my whole life, many people have asked me some form of the question, “But don’t you want to have a dad?”

It’s something I’ve never really thought about. Most people that I knew while I was growing up were curious, but tended to be accepting. It never confused me or made me feel weird that I had two moms instead of a mom and a dad. I had two parents, and they loved each other.

As I got older and asked more questions, I started to be aware that my moms were, in fact, not legally married, despite the fact that I always saw them as such. They were partners, not wives. And though the dynamic in my house seemed like my moms were married, it hurt me more than I would admit that they weren’t. I wanted my parents to be legally married, just like everyone else.

Growing up, I always had a wild and vivid imagination. Throughout elementary and middle school, I had this fantasy that I would walk into the classroom and my teacher would give me a big hug and tell me that finally, my moms could get married. My classmates would throw confetti and I would happy cry and everyone I knew would celebrate.

The day I actually found out my moms could get married  was March 21, 2014. My grandma was in town from Milwaukee, and we were sitting on our dark green couch watching the evening news when the reporter announced that a judge had just lifted Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage. We all gasped and looked at each other in shock — we couldn’t believe it. That moment was much more my family’s style — eating dinner in front of the TV is one of the places we like to be when we get good news.

The next morning, I put on my light green dress and got ready to go to the Washtenaw County Courthouse. My grandma was the only other person in my family who got dressed up. When we were all finally ready to leave, we piled into the car and headed downtown.

I have never seen so many people in one room. There were judges in long robes, rainbow-clad supporters, nicely dressed lesbian and gay couples of all ages, kids, friends, and family members waiting to see their loved ones get married. There were flowers and cakes and bottles of champagne.

Numbers were given out to all of the waiting couples — my parents were somewhere in the 30s. We stayed in the Courthouse all day long, eating wedding cake, drinking coffee, and talking to family friends — all of whom had shown up to see my parents get married.

When it was finally our turn, our little group of family and friends assembled in the loud, crowded courthouse basement. A kind judge officiated the tiny ceremony. And on that day, in the hot courthouse basement, with three other weddings simultaneously happening around us, my moms got legally married.

The ruling to legalize same-sex marriage was reversed later that day, but all of the weddings that had been performed were recognized as legal.

The legal marriage of my parents hardly changed anything in our day-to-day lives. We continued to live the exact same way that we had been living before. But it changed things for me. The fact that my moms were married made me, as their daughter, feel more comfortable in our world with so many anti-gay people. It eliminated any doubts I might have had in the fact that my family was no different than anyone else’s.

I am eternally grateful for that day — the wedding, the “reception” we had at Panera afterwards, but most of all, the official recognition and validation of my moms — who are perfect for each other — as married. That day, I got to be at my parents’ wedding.

My moms always taught me that I can be whoever and whatever I want to be. Thanks to them, I am Loey Jones-Perpich. A euchre player, great hugger, theatre maniac, sister, and the only daughter of two truly fantastic women.