This letter was submitted calling on the United States Senators representing Southern states to pass the Respect for Marriage Act. The letter is signed by 30+ participants and submitted on behalf of the 200+ same-sex couples who participated in the Campaign for Southern Equality’s “WE DO” campaign from 2011-2015. To take action on the Respect for Marriage Act, click here.
Nearly ten years ago, hundreds of families living in Southern states participated in the Campaign for Southern Equality’s “WE DO” campaign to call for the freedom to marry. From 2011- 2015, hundreds of LGBTQ couples across the South took part in actions in their hometowns, from small towns like Wilson, NC, to large cities like Jackson, MS. Surrounded by family, friends, neighbors, and clergy, these couples requested – and were denied – marriage licenses in their hometowns. These actions were a platform for sharing an important American story: the reality that LGBTQ people and families live in town across the South and were harmed on a daily basis by marriage discrimination. Among these families, some also participated in groundbreaking litigation to strike down marriage bans in their home states.
We fought for the freedom to marry a decade ago – and now, we urge you to protect this freedom from any future threats by codifying it in federal law.”
Today, we write on behalf of the more than 200 couples who participated in these actions and the thousands of other Southerners who stood with us in support. We fought for the freedom to marry a decade ago – and now, we urge you to protect this freedom from any future threats by codifying it in federal law.
In 2015 we celebrated when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges, finding that same-sex couples have the same freedom to marry as any other couple. It was a life-changing day for our families. In the years since, some of us have raised children, built homes together, and moved to other states; some spouses have come out as transgender; some have divorced; others have endured the loss of their spouse. But whatever our life circumstances, all of us were guaranteed the protections and responsibilities of marriage, which help navigate so many life paths.
But this summer, in 2022, we were chilled to read the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who invited challenges to marriage equality and urged his colleagues to reconsider Obergefell, among other civil rights precedents. For us, there is nothing abstract about Justice Thomas’ brief.
As Southerners, we live in a region where political attacks on LGBTQ people happen regularly, with state legislators introducing bills that would revoke the freedom to marry or otherwise target our community. The freedom to marry was hard won, but we also know that until it is protected under federal law, it is also vulnerable to a national political climate in which civil rights are under attack.
We write to you in steadfast support of the Respect for Marriage Act, federal legislation that would protect the freedom to marry for same-sex couples and interracial couples and ensure stability and clarity for our families.
The Respect for Marriage Act is uniquely important for the one-third of LGBTQ Americans who live in the South. Every Southern state has a law, now unenforceable because of the Obergefell ruling, prohibiting the freedom to marry. But anti-LGBTQ political forces are working to erode our fundamental freedoms, and if they prevail in having Obergefell overturned, our families and marriages would be at risk. This is not a hypothetical scenario: Every year lawmakers at every level of government try to erode same-sex couples’ marriage rights and infringe on other LGBTQ liberties, and we expect the South to be the epicenter of any attempt to roll back the freedom to marry.
So much in our communities has changed since we approached the counter at our county clerk’s office – including the public support that we have felt for our families. Every year, public support for the freedom to marry has increased, and right now a supermajority of Americans, including a majority in every Southern state, support marriage for same-sex couples. They understand that no one is harmed by our love and commitment, and that our families are strengthened by the freedom to marry.
Same-sex couples in the South cannot afford to return to the legal limbo that we grappled with for far too long. The Respect for Marriage Act would provide critical safeguards for all LGBTQ people and ensure that our zip codes do not determine whether we can marry the person we love. LGBTQ Southerners require federal action from the United States Congress when it comes to the freedom to marry. We require passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, and we urge you to vote yes.
After the “WE DO” actions years ago, as we walked away from local government buildings where we felt the reality of discrimination, a long line of families, clergy, friends, and neighbors, we sang, “We are not backing down. One step closer now. As long as it takes. Love won’t be denied.” We knew then, as we do now, that the work of winning equality under the law would require persistence to win and, once won, vigilance to protect.
Today we ask that you affirm our love and respect our families. We ask that you vote YES on the Respect for Marriage Act.
We knew then, as we do now, that the work of winning equality under the law would require persistence to win and, once won, vigilance to protect. Today we ask that you affirm our love and respect our families. We ask that you vote YES on the Respect for Marriage Act.”
Betsy & Shuli Archer • Swannanoa, NC
Meg and Sarah Baesmith • Durham NC
Charlene Barker • Brandon, MS
Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara & Meghann Burke • Asheville, NC
Rolanda Boyd & Dawn Edwards • Hattiesburg, MS
Tracey & Cheryl Bridges • Greensboro, NC
Kory Chatelain and Larry Best • Pensacola, FL
Elizabeth Eve and KC Cartledge • Swannanoa, NC
Barb Goldstein & Ann Willoughby • Durham, NC
Matthew Griffin & Raymie Wolfe • New Orleans, LA
Ivy Hill • Piedmont, SC
Mary Jamis & Starr Johnson • Mocksville, NC
Tiffany Maddux & Carlie Fink-Maddux • Raleigh, NC
Michel & Alyssa McVicker-Weaver • Baltimore, MD
Carol McCrory & Brenda Clark • Biltmore Lake, NC
Judy & Megan O’Brien • Raleigh, NC
Jens and Robert Palsgaard-Anglin • Douglasville, GA
Justine & TJ Price-O’Neil • Wake Forest, NC
Viviana Saraceno • Asheville, NC
Amanda Styles and Megan Swett • Decatur, GA
Rev. Paula Womack and Rev. Jane Weidig • Garner, NC