Mignon & Elaine Moore-Harley
Mignon Moore and Elaine Harley
In the five months between May 2008, when the California Supreme Court passed the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, and November 2008, when anti-gay forces pushed through Proposition 8 and outlawed such marriages, over 18,000 same-sex couples said “I Do” in California.
But not all loving couples in the state had the chance to tie the knot. Mignon Moore and Elaine Harvey, for example, had only recently filed for domestic partnership in the state and decided to take some time after the CA Supreme Court victory to plan a proper wedding.
"We wanted to have a wedding associated with our marriage," Mignon explained. "And we thought we'd have time to think about it. But then Proposition 8 happened, and they took the option away.”
At the time, Mignon and Elaine had been together for six years and had spent two years in Los Angeles, where they moved and bought a house when Mignon was offered a teaching job at UCLA. Both women are originally from New York City.
As the years passed and the legal battle to overturn Proposition 8 dragged on, Mignon and Elaine decided that they didn’t want to wait to get married. They traveled to their hometown of New York in March 2012 and received an official, legal marriage license after over a decade of commitment. “We said, ‘You know what? Even though we live in California, we can’t wait for California to do this,” Mignon said. “So we got married in New York, where we grew up and where our heart is.”
Then they journeyed with 40 of their friends and family members to Los Cabos, Mexico for a beautiful beachfront wedding ceremony, during which they walked each other down the aisle and exchanged their vows to love and cherish each other forever.
“We walked each other down the aisle because we felt like we were walking together to meet this next phase of our journey and our life together,” Mignon said.
Even though they are now married - "We're just getting used to calling each other 'wife' and 'spouse,'" Mignon laughed - the couple understands that their marriage is not respected in California. This is partly because the freedom to marry has not yet been restored in California since Prop 8, and partly because the federal government does not respect lawful marriages between same-sex couples due to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.
"We feel like we're in limbo," Mignon explained. "We stand between two worlds - one where we are legally married and we have our relationship recognized in that way, and the other in a place where people don't have a clear idea of who we are and what we mean to each other. It's that kind of insecurity that underlies our union."
Mignon explained why marriage matters to her and Elaine - and why committed same-sex couples should not have to settle for civil union or domestic partnership: "We think that marriage provides a clear idea of who we are and what we mean to each other," she said. There's something about marriage and the experience of having a wedding that creates a clear idea in people's heads of who we are."
Mignon and Elaine have stepped into the next phase of their lives together by “jumping the broom,” an African-American wedding tradition that Mignon explained serves as “a symbolic sweeping away the old and welcoming the new.”
Now, the United States needs to sweep away years of unfairly excluding same-sex couples from marriage by repealing DOMA and extending the freedom to marry to all loving and committed couples nationwide.