When gay marriage was legalized in New York State in 2011, Joyce Gibs and Janice James decided to drive there, from Dayton to get married, knowing that their union would not be recognized back home in Ohio. But that changed in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court recognized same sex marriage as a legal human right. In this conversation, Joyce and Janice talk about how life was before that historic Supreme Court ruling and then how their whole world changed.
Joyce Gibbs: I know what it's like for heterosexual people to talk about their weddings, and share stories of their weddings, and put pictures of their weddings on their desks at work. And, for gay people, there is this subtle undercurrent among some people in the population that they don't want to hear about it. I do want to hear about your wedding. You can be gay, just don't put it in my face.
The other piece of not being able to legally marry, that struck me over and over again, is the financial security that comes from marriage. The fact that if you're not allowed to marry and your significant other dies, you have no access to that person's Social Security. You can't inherit money from them without paying inheritance taxes because they're not considered your spouse. So, for all those reasons that it's really important, that right to marriage is huge. And I want you to talk a little bit about, Janice, what happened on June 26, 2015, when gay marriage became the law of the land. As a result of the Supreme Court ruling.
Janice James: I was at work and I had been refreshing my browser waiting for the decision to come from the Supreme Court, and when I saw that the Supreme Court upheld gay marriage as the law of the land, I was just almost in a stupor. I just kind of wandered the halls. I wanted to go screaming and shouting and celebrating, but I couldn't. And I didn't. And I just kind of just kind of was in a stupor. I didn't know what to do. I wanted to get to you, but you were at work. And again, that that night it was it was just another amazing, affirming situation. So how were you impacted, Joyce?
JG: I was at work and I sat right next to a gay man and we were doing the same thing you were doing. We kept refreshing the browser to see. He was looking at SCOTUS blog, the Supreme Court blog, and I was looking over his shoulder. And then I had to go to a meeting. It was a huge meeting - first meeting I was ever in with the vice president of marketing. I was in the marketing department at this organization, and there were probably about 15 or 20 other people.
Only two people in that room knew I lived with another woman. One person in that room knew I was married to another woman. So, before the meeting got started, there was a lot of chatter and people were checking their cell phones and going, 'Okay, what's going on now? What's going on now?' And then finally, somebody said, 'Okay, it's it's finished.' And somebody else said, what? 'What's finished?' 'Gay marriage is the law of the land.' And all of a sudden, the room was just buzzing and people were talking about it in generalities and they were talking about what that might mean and how San Francisco is going to explode that weekend.
And, I'm sitting there thinking, this affects me personally. This affects me personally. They're talking about it like it's out there somewhere.... And all of a sudden, I felt my body rise up out of the chair, and I'm not the kind of person who does this. I held my left hand up in the air with my ring finger up in the air, and I said, 'This affects me personally, folks! Janice and I got married October 7th, 2011, New York City.'
And then I thought, ‘Holy crap, would did I just do?’
And the room stopped and people were all staring at me, and I'm still standing up and I'm gathering my papers together and my hands are shaking, and a woman who is vice president of marketing said, 'You just found out that your marriage is legal and you're sitting in a marketing meeting?' And I said, 'I'm going to go now and I might be back and I might not.' I knew it was going to come out, just pour out of me and I had to get out of there.
And so, I just went home, got my things together, and I went home. And I can't get over how much I just cried that day. I cried and cried and cried. And, I didn't quite understand why was crying so much, maybe relief? I don't know. But I remember reading the next day in the newspaper a quote from a woman, a lesbian who said, 'I never knew how much it hurt until it stopped hurting.' And maybe that's... Maybe that's why I was crying so much, I don't. I still, honest to God, don't know.
Joyce Gibbs and Janice James, the couple says they've experienced some tough times, but today they're having fun with the life they share.