“Hi, I’m Becky. Would you like some Tylenol?”
Those were the first words that Becky Bickett spoke to Andrea Sanders in 2004. Andrea was suffering from a headache after a long day at work, but still promised she’d meet Becky. They’ve been together ever since.
Ten years later, Becky and Andrea are now raising twin boys, and suing for the right to marry in Mississippi. The couple joins Jocelyn Pritchett and her wife Carla Webb, along with the Campaign for Southern Equality, in a lawsuit challenging Mississippi’s ban on marriage equality.
Becky and Andrea have lived together in Pass Christian for the past five years, and they’ve each called Mississippi home for about 15 years.
Andrea spoke with CSE about LGBT life in Mississippi and what marriage equality would mean for her family.
CSE: What makes Mississippi feel like home for you?
Andrea: We have been here for long enough to have gained and lost loved ones in this state. Most of our nieces and nephews were born here, we met each other here, our boys were born here. Becky has lost her grandmother and uncle here, and I lost my father living here. We have history, memories, and ties. We bought our first home in Mississippi, and graduated from Southern Miss.
When we go to the store, even a large one, people know us, they know our kids, they say “Hi,” and we have a conversation with them like we are old friends. Mississippi is a part of us, and it will always be our home.
CSE: When did you first know that you were in love with Becky?
Andrea: Three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, we were making a supply run to the relief centers in town. We had 15 people to take care of and get supplies for: ice, food, water and any clothes that we could find. On our way back and we were struck by another car on the driver’s side, and our truck flipped over and spun in the middle of the highway. All I could think about was Becky. They tried to separate us, but upon my insistence, they allowed us to stay together. Loving someone and being in love with someone are different. Being willing to lay down your life, or put their well being above your own–that is what being in love is about. When we were able to look past our own hurt, our own injuries, were we able to realize that we were truly in love.
CSE: What’s it like raising kids in Mississippi, which has no legal protections for LGBT people?
Andrea: We were so excited to adopt our sons, but the journey through the paperwork was a nightmare. Because of the law regarding same sex marriage and adoption, we had to search for a social worker that would do a home study for us. The Department of Human Services, along with many other social workers that work for adoption agencies, will not do a home study for people if they cohabitate with someone. Becky was able to adopt our sons, but I’m a legal stranger to them.
CSE: How would marriage equality help your family?
Andrea: It would mean that if anything happens to one of us, we would not lose our home, savings, possessions and children due to unfair inheritance laws. It means that I would be able to adopt the children I’m raising. Very few companies in Mississippi offer benefits for unmarried partners – being legally married would solve that problem for us.