Same-sex marriage equals recognition

This month we celebrate two anniversaries – the day we met 37 years ago and began to fall in love, and the day 22 years ago when we moved to our adoptive home of Hawaii. We would love to add a new anniversary date to our calendar this year – the day we can finally marry.

Over 37 years of life’s ups and downs, we have come to rely upon each other. We’ve both had some health scares that remind us that time is precious. Of course, we sometimes argue – usually about who takes out the trash. But most days, when we are cooking together, simply hanging out in our yard or playing with our cats, Mai and Tai, we look at each other and can’t believe how lucky we are to have that special someone to spend our lives with.

Along this journey, through the good times and the bad, we have never ceased wanting to be recognized as a legitimate family. We do, of course, have a civil union. And that’s nice. We appreciate that recognition. But it’s simply not the same. We were both raised in Texas with traditional families, so for us nothing says family like marriage.

Marriage would allow us access to all sorts of federal rights and benefits, like being able to file joint taxes. But more importantly, it would allow us to say to our friends, our families and our community, “This is my husband,” and for people to instantly understand just what that means.

We’ve witnessed many friends, family, neighbors and co-workers reconsider their position on marriage equality over the years. As they’ve gotten to know us and other same-sex couples, they’ve come to realize allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry does not change the definition of marriage for anyone else, it simply allows more caring and committed couples to access marriage.

When we met 37 years ago, we didn’t know what our futures held. We did not foresee a day when so many states would vote to approve same-sex marriage. We didn’t anticipate a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court or the opportunity to marry in our adopted home state. We simply knew that we wanted to go through life together.

It’s our sincere hope that our elected leaders will support the freedom to marry during this month’s special session. We know that we could travel to California or other states to get married. But this is our home, and this is where we want our relationship to be recognized for what it is.

If the Legislature approves marriage equality, we will be adding one more very important anniversary to our calendar.

* Wil Copeland and Dale Smith live in Kihei.