Marriage Equality, LGBT Families, and Standing Strong with Orlando

THE GREAT THING ABOUT A WEDDING, in addition to the obvious, is the rare opportunity it often provides us to see favorite relatives and friends, many of them separated from us by wide geographical gulfs. Something I’ve observed while interviewing LGBT couples for Love Wins Texas Weddings is that ceremonies can also reunite loved ones who’ve been separated by wide emotional or ideological gulfs. In Weddings of Our Own, Christina Andrews and Melony Schexnayder (p. 56) expressed both surprise and joy that Melony’s mother attended their ceremony. “She has not been in support of the relationship at all,” Christina says, “but her attendance was very special to us.”

With the advent of marriage equality, many LGBT couples are mixing longtime wedding traditions with new elements that often reflect the importance of family. During a ceremony planned for later this year (p. 26), Tammy Stanley’s 11-year-old daughter will walk her down the aisle, and her fiancée Misty Hillin will be escorted by Hillin’s teenage niece and nephews. For Doug Winnie and Tim Sullivan (p. 52), who wed recently (on the 25th anniversary of their first date), the couple’s surrounding “family” included not just relatives but nine exchange students they’ve hosted over the years—some of the young groomsmen flew in from as far away as Italy and Sweden. Joe Riggs and Jason Hanna, meanwhile, married in 2013 with an eye toward starting a family through surrogacy. The proud fathers recently celebrated their twin sons’ second birthday (p. 104).

On a more difficult note, as we were going to press, the tragic LGBT nightclub shooting in Orlando occurred. I’m both heartbroken and stunned. And I’ve been deeply moved by reading about the beautiful, vibrant lives that were cut short during this senseless attack.

Two of the victims, Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, and Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, 32, had been planning to marry. Instagram photos posted by Guerrero over the holidays show the two men, arm in arm and wearing Santa hats, the parents of both smiling proudly beside them. Now instead of a wedding, the two families have planned a joint funeral service for the young men. I tear up when I look at those joyful photos, but I also find inspiration in the story of their love, and both families’ efforts to honor the couple’s union.

The SCOTUS ruling of June 2015 inspired us to create this magazine, which is ostensibly a big celebration of LGBT unity. The tragic events of June 2016 have convinced me that we need this magazine now more than ever.