STORIES: Jamee and Kelley

Photos courtesy of Courtney Cook

Jamee and I were married in Spencer, Iowa on October 19, 2012. We came to Iowa from Minnesota because Iowa recognizes the love and the commitment that Jamee and I have for one another.

When we first decided to come to Iowa to get married, we reached out to One Iowa to figure out how to go about this process. Not knowing anyone in Iowa made it difficult and a little daunting, but we were able to find a great judge, a talented photographer, and a few amazing witnesses to make our marriage ceremony “official.” Judge Walloway had beautiful things to say, and the witnesses were very nice. Our photographer, Courtney Cook was amazing. Jamee and I don’t like having our pictures taken, but she made it so fun.

We couldn’t have picked a more beautiful place to get married. Spencer in autumn is breathtaking and we have had a blast celebrating in Okoboji, Arnold’s Park, and Spirit Lake.

As we head back to Minnesota, we are grateful for Iowa, a state that understands exactly why marriage matters.

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October 24, 2012 at 9:55 am

Between You and Me

This video was sent to us by a couple who had a civil union in Switzerland in 2008 and who supports our work. The song was composed and performed (voice and piano) by Terry MacArthur, one of the grooms. The song was first performed at the blessing of the civil union of Max Heckler and Terry MacArthur on May 1, 2008, at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Geneva, Switzerland.

October 23, 2012 at 12:42 pm

The Sinovics Celebrate 35 Years

My family just celebrated my parents’ 35th anniversary, with a fun surprise party, great friends, family, and a good time for everyone.

I have a younger brother and sister, and its not something we think about every day – but our parents have been married for a while.

Their commitment to one another, and to our family, has meant so much to us. My brother and sister are the two people I’m closest to in the world. My parents are tied for a close second, and there’s nothing the five of us wouldn’t do for each other.

Our family is defined by the commitment we make to one another, every single day. We care about one another. We call each other. We talk about what’s happening in our lives. We celebrate together every birthday, Easter, Christmas, thanksgiving, and every other holiday. We also help each other when we need it most.

Every family should be able to know the pride and love that we feel for my parents. That’s why I support the freedom to marry for everyone – regardless of sexual orientation.

Everyone should have the same opportunity to throw their parents a surprise party for their 35th wedding anniversary, just like me and my brother and sister did. A marriage and a family should be defined by our love and commitment to one another, and nothing else.

-Matt Sinovic, Des Moines

October 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Upbringing starts the conversation

from The Telegraph Herald.

Zach Wahls is quite a rock star in the marriage-equality movement.

After he spoke at Carnegie-Stout Public Library on Thursday night, many of the about 90 attendees lined up to shake his hand, have their pictures taken with him or get their copy of his book signed. That’s what having a YouTube video with 17 million hits will do for someone.

“People want to get a picture taken with him and put it on their Facebook page,” said Molly Tafoya with One Iowa, the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group.

Dubuque was the final stop in Wahls’ statewide, Why Marriage Matters tour with One Iowa.

Wahls is an agreeable advocate for LGBT rights who, One Iowa officials admit, “opens doors that we can’t.”

He is handsome, charming, well-spoken and funny. And he is unwavering in his love for his lesbian parents. Wahls’ book, “My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family,” released this year, has garnered international attention.

“The attention has given me an opportunity to get out into the world and have this conversation about ‘gay marriage,’ which I just call ‘marriage,'” said Wahls, 21, a native Iowan who lives in Iowa City.

“I learned about family love and commitment from my moms. It hasn’t been easy for them,” he said, describing a critical hospital visit when his “tall mom,” his biological mother, Terri Wahls, was not allowed into the emergency room when his “short mom,” Jackie Reger, was treated for a near-fatal condition.

After same-sex marriage became legal in Iowa, the couple got a marriage license and held a wedding ceremony.

When people learn Wahls was raised by two mothers, they often ask similar questions about his daily life. He often disappoints them by detailing its normalcy.

Audience members told Wahls about differing experiences of being gay in Dubuque.

One man recalled gay pride parades when marchers were pelted with eggs and described the city as lagging in the movement toward marriage equality. Another said, although he was afraid to move to Dubuque four years ago, he and his husband have felt very welcomed by the community.

The audience was asked to sign a pledge card to have five conversations within the next few weeks with friends and strangers about “why marriage matters.”

Wahls shied away from talking politics, noting that he was speaking in a public library, but someone brought up the push by Republicans to oust another Iowa Supreme Court justice who participated in the 2009 ruling that allowed same-sex marriage.

“I can’t tell you to turn your ballot over and vote one way or another, but I can tell you to vote,” Wahls said. “But if you value an independent judiciary, then voting to protect them is the right thing to do.”

Read the full article from The Telegraph Herald.

August 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Pridefest brings hundreds downtown for diversity

from Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier.

WATERLOO, Iowa — Being raised by two lesbian moms may be rare in Iowa, but Zach Wahls says he had a normal, happy childhood.

The Iowa City man is proud of his parents, and he’s traveling the state with One Iowa — the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group — telling anyone who will listen. He had a receptive audience Saturday afternoon at Cedar Valley Pridefest in downtown Waterloo.

Hundreds of people, gay and straight, filled the 300 block of West Fourth Street to hear Wahls, the featured speaker, and participate in the first celebration held in the city to showcase sexual orientation diversity. The daylong event featured musical acts, female impersonators, drag races, information booths and a host of other activities.

Wahls, who became nationally known after giving a passionate speech about equality last year during a public hearing held by the Iowa House Judiciary Committee, told the crowd there’s only one difference between him and people raised by straight parents.

“I’m really good at putting the seat down,” he said, followed by chuckles from the crowd. “You’re laughing, but it’s true. If you can find a difference, let me know.”

A video of Wahls’ speech against a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Iowa was posted on YouTube. It’s received more than 18 million views to date, which earned him appearances on several national television programs like “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

Wahls said there are some people who still don’t want his family to exist. But the nation has come a long way since 2003 when it was illegal in 12 states to be a homosexual. Luckily, Wahls said the attitude toward the LGBT community has changed for the better. People are much more accepting, he said, and events like Pridefest go a long way toward equality for everyone.

“A person’s worth is not dictated by the gender of the person they love,” Wahls said.

Jennifer Waldron and Brenda Fite held hands with their son, Lloyd Waldron, during Wahls’ speech. The Cedar Falls couple wanted to hear about Wahls’ experiences first-hand because they know Lloyd, 2, will eventually face the same type of issues and questions.

Wahls said friends would ask if his parents were gay and what it’s like to be raised by two moms. As a young man, Wahls even said some guys asked if his moms were hot.

Ultimately, the answers indicated he led a great life.

“I hope our son will be as proud and loving when he’s speaking of his moms,” Brenda Fite said. “We’ve come so far. … When Lloyd is Zach’s age now, I hope this won’t even be an issue.”

The goal of the festival is to celebrate diversity in the Cedar Valley and promote acceptance and inclusion, organizers said.

An estimated 400 people paid entry to the event in the first three hours. Gates opened at noon. Pridefest committee member Mike Tyer said the community response was phenomenal, and he expected the crowd to double or more by midnight.

“This shows the community is accepting and appreciative of diversity. It’s our differences that make us a community,” Tyer said.

Read the full article from The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier.

August 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Why Marriage Matters

from KIMT.

MASON CITY, IA – Why does marriage matter? That’s the question one state organization is answering as the group tours Iowa this week. They’re talking about gay marriage in the state and the goal is to show communities why it’s important.

The group One Iowa is teaming up with Zach Wahls, who is sharing his experiences growing up with two moms. He’s addressed the Iowa House and has been on national TV.

His hope is to keep the issue of gay marriage from being political. Instead he’s having an open conversation with the community in North Iowa about any concerns they have with gay marriage and at the same time, discussing what it means to real families and real people to have the right to get married.

“At the end of the day, this is not a conversation about converting anyone’s religious beliefs. It’s a conversation about respect for each other and the ability to sit down and have a dialog.”

The group is speaking to eight different communities in Iowa.

Read the article and watch the video from KIMT.

August 20, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Son of lesbian couple speaks in Sioux City

from The Sioux City Journal.

SIOUX CITY | Zach Wahls said he doesn’t feel like he grew up differently than anyone else.

An Eagle Scout and former high school quarterback, the Iowa City resident credits his “two moms,” Terry Wahls and Jackie Reger, for instilling in him strength, confidence and courage.

“People always ask what it’s like having gay parents,” he said, during the “Why Marriage Matters” forum Thursday at the Sioux City Convention Center. “They aren’t gay parents. To me, they’re just parents.”

The event was sponsored by One Iowa, the state’s largest gay advocacy group.

Zach Wahls, 21, gained national attention last year, when he passionately spoke in front of the state House of Representative against a proposed amendment to repeal marriage equality. House lawmakers approved a plan to create a ballot measure that would ban same-sex marriage if approved.

On Thursday, he talked about marriage equality and having gay parents.

“Nobody calls their mom and dad ‘straight’ parents,” he said. “It’s no different in my family.”

Growing up, he said, there were plenty of male role models, except at home.

“I learned how to use a razor from my best friend’s dad,” he said. “Having two lesbian parents weren’t good for that.”

He said his moms marriage in 2009 — after the Iowa Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriages — gave them the same legal rights other married couples have. That wasn’t the case when Terry Wahls, his biological mother, came down with multiple sclerosis in 2006.

When Reger took her to the emergency room, Zach Wahls said, a doctor ignored Reger’s knowledge of her partner’s condition and ordered unnecessary treatments.

“In the eyes of the law, Jackie wasn’t family,” he said. “She was a stranger.”

That’s why marriage matters, he said.

“Marriage isn’t a political issue,” he said. “Instead, it’s a fundamental issue where families are respected and the message is love.”

Read the full article from The Sioux City Journal.

August 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm

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