Their Stories, Their Words. A Portraiture Project

I swore I would never post anything political on my De La Vue page, just because as a business I have felt the need to remain neutral and un-opinionated.  Then I realized; while it may be my job as a business owner to remain neutral, it is my DUTY as a photographer (not a portrait photographer, or a wedding photographer or a family photographer), but a journalist to show the world through my eyes.  So I feel it would be a dishonor to myself and my craft to NOT share this amazing experience I have had with you.

A few months ago, I found myself with an overwhelming need to do a project like this…I didn’t quite understand why, and quite honestly was very resistant because it is such a controversial subject.  Being a people pleasure by nature – its very hard for me to step out on a ledge, for anything!  So I pushed and swallowed it down, over and over again, literally for like 2 months.  I prayed about it…asking “Why do you want me to take this journey?” and “Why I should take a stand on anything?”  But the feeling and the calling was persistent, and as if not by my own free will (which I know sounds nut-job-ish), I found myself posting the casting call on Facebook.

I found myself getting resistance to this project, both external and internal. Because of this I just wanted to bail, and take the path of least resistance.  But every time I would find myself mentally going there – something would happen.  I would find myself at the doorsteps of the MN United Headquarters…just talking to people.  I would find myself in a church, having a conversation with a gay pastor and crying to her.  I would find myself going deep into the bible, lead to passages about loving others the way Christ does.

This project became a very deep, spiritual and emotional journey for me.  One that I am forever thankful to both the Lord for putting me through, as well as thankful to these amazing couples and families to being part of with me.  But alas, I never wanted this project to be about me – but about them and this hurtful amendment.  That is where the working title was formed; “Their Stories, Their Words”.  So I would love to share some of what we were able to share at the open studio the past two months.

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Voting no on the marriage amendment is important to us because it would write discrimination into the MN constitution. It would officially make both of us second class citizens. After 10 years together, we deserve the right to commit to each other in front of our family and friends and the legal benefits associated with marriage. Please vote no so that this can one day become a reality. For better. For worse. For all.

 

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Giving our Dads the freedom to marry will allow our family to finally become complete.

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We are a family.

At the end of each day, we come home and begin our nightly routine. Quinn unloads the dishwasher and has a snack while she chatters about the latest school gossip. We go over what homework has to be finished, and get it done. We all come together to make dinner, and then we eat it at the dining room table while everyone gets a chance to talk about all of the things that happened during their day. We commiserate and laugh, all while trying to keep the cat off of the table. Afterwards, we clean up the dishes and hang out for a while before the bedtime routine begins.

Sound familiar?

It should, because we are just like you in so many ways. We live and love as a family. We deserve the right to legally unify our family by marriage, ensuring the same protections and rights as our heterosexually coupled family, friends and neighbors.

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” 

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Love. Love is the basis for our family. What’s yours? 

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Janna and I have been completely in love and committed to each other for nearly four years. We were introduced in college by a mutual friend and have been inseparable ever since. We enjoy the simple things in life; spending time with our dog, Jayda, getting together with our families, and curling up on the couch to watch a good movie.

It hurts us to see opposite-sex couples that are able to get married on a whim or simply because it’s the “next step”. That next step doesn’t even exist for us. Our makeshift ladder doesn’t go that high; not even close.

Marrying Janna won’t just give us a reason to throw a big party for our family and friends, go on a honeymoon, or buy “Hers and Hers” towels. We worry every day that if the unthinkable happens, one of us will be sitting in a waiting room scared and confused, and we’ll both be alone. In a time when every penny counts, we’re losing thousands of dollars a year because we can’t file our taxes jointly and paying thousands of dollars a year on separate health insurance policies.

Marriage should not be a privilege; it should be an inalienable right for every human. Love is beautiful, blind and boundless. And there’s plenty to go around, we should all be allowed to celebrate it.

 

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We are both classically trained singers [Richard’s a bass-baritone and Jeffrey’s a tenor] and we’re pursuing our dream careers in performance on the operatic stage and in the concert hall.

Richard’s a U.S. Citizen, Jeffrey is Canadian, and therein lays the problem. We’ve been together for three and a half wonderful years, and would love nothing more than to be a legally married couple, celebrating the union of our lives together with our families and friends. Being a same-sex, bi-national couple is difficult not only due to the fact that it’s hard to even stay together in one country, but it also makes it even more difficult to both earn a living let alone follow our dream. We’re very aware that Canada legally recognizes same sex marriages, and marriage is definitely in our plans, but Jeffrey has spent the greater part of the last decade studying and working in the states, and calls the U.S. home. Now that he is out of school, work visas are harder to come by as an unmanaged, freelance musician and it’s hard to be a breadwinner when only one person is legally able to work in this country.

Even if we chose to marry in a state whose laws do recognize same sex marriage, Federal law prohibits the immigration rights heterosexual couples gain, i.e. a green card, insurance, etc. With every state that votes in favor of marriage equality, same-sex marriage gets closer and closer to being federally legalized, thus allowing couples like us to pursue our dreams and live our lives together. We are hopeful that we will see marriage legalized in our lifetime, and we’ll be at the front of the line when it is.

 

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Marriage equality would mean us being ability to take the next step in our relationship and make it official. To have our marriage one day be recognized by our fellow American as equal.

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A year ago last spring, Elin heard about a ‘gay marriage amendment’ that people would get to vote on the following November. She turned to me, excitedly, and asked if ‘that means that you and Baba can get married?’ She was so excited. It broke my heart to tell her ‘No, the amendment would put it in the State Constitution making it extra illegal for her Baba and I to get married.

Elin wanted to know why some people want to put it into the Minnesota Constitution. I told her that the other claims that we are bad parents. Her response was ‘that is crazy’ Elin is a great kid, a straight ‘A’ student. She is the kind of kid that parents want as their kid’s friends. That great kid didn’t happen by accident. Karen and I decided before we even tried to have a baby, that we wanted to raise a kind and compassionate person.

My dad died 2.5 years ago, Karen was there, beside me thru the whole thing. He had been sick for years. It was not easy for either of my parents. My mom would go to the hospital, and talk to the doctors and nurses, her right to do that came with the words ‘ I am his wife’. I also have a chronic medical condition, while it is not life threatening, I do have surgery to manage it every year. I want Karen to be there beside me when I wake up, and in case I don’t wake up someday. I don’t want someone to challenge her right to be there by asking to see the level of legal paperwork that we have with each other. I don’t want to worry about if that person has time to read and interpret that paperwork. I want Karen to be able to say, ‘She is my wife’ and for that to be good enough.

 

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“No one human is of more value than another so why do our rights reflect
that? It’s not about politics or religion; it’s about basic human rights. Don’t make discrimination legal – separate but equal hasn’t worked before. Love has no limits.”

 

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For us Marriage Equality in Minnesota and in America for same-sex couples would mean inclusion.  It would mean that our citizenship and relationship were as important and as valued as other Minnesotans and Americans.  It would mean that our contributions to society were valued and that our benefits as citizens of this state and nation would be equal and fair.  It would mean that our daughter could feel assured that all things were stable and secure in her parents’ legal and recognized union.