Today, Connecticut joins Massachusetts as the only states to allow same-sex couples to marry. This comes one week after California voters banned gay marriage. WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil spoke to two couples who've been waiting a long time for this day to come.
This morning town halls across the state will begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Barb and Robin Levine Ritterman will be at the front of the line at New Haven city hall. Last week, I met with them in Barb's office on Chapel Street to hear about their plans. She smiles at Robin, her partner of seventeen years, as she talks about planning for the big day.
"We have one child, see if you can guess which one...who wants a big wedding and she wants to plan it..and another one who says what, I have to go to another wedding."
The Levine-Rittermans were one of eight plaintiff couples who sued the state in 2004 to allow gay marriage. Last month, Connecticut's Supreme Court ruled the state could no longer ban same sex couples from marrying saying it was unconstitutional.
Although they're happy they can finally legally marry in Connecticut, the Levine-Rittermans look back at their commitment ceremony in 1992 as their actual wedding. While it was a day filled with happiness..Barb says it was obvious something was missing.
"We couldn't call it a wedding...we didn't feel like we had any access to that word. We had a rabbi. We had a hundred friends and family but nobody knew what this thing was we were doing. The people who did the invitations said, 'what is this thing that you're doing?'"
When Connecticut approved civil unions in 2005, the couple decided it was the right time despite reservations that the union was not equal to marriage.
Robin says their civil union helped them both be recognized as parents on their children's birth certificates.
"It felt to us like we really needed to take that step to do anything we could to protect our family and especially our children. Because that time we were plaintiffs in the lawsuit so we were really hopeful that we were going to get gay marriage but we didn't know for sure. We had no idea what the timeline would be for that."
Michelle Thibeault of Middletown understands the Levine-Rittermans rationale.She and her partner, Wendy had a civil union shortly after it became available in Connecticut because they have a young daughter.
And just like the Levine-Rittermans, the Thibeaults see their commitment ceremony in 2002 as their special day Wendy says they took months to plan the Renaissance-themed ceremony that took place in front of family and friends
"It's our marriage date that's when we got married..we weren't allowed to legally do it at the time. But it's all about the party, the joy that you have with a new relationship."
The Thibeaults are still working out the details of planning a legal marriage in Connecticut. Michelle jokes that after planning their commitment ceremony and then their civil union, the skies the limit for their third ceremony.
"We sort of threw it out there like a poll to the family like, 'if we had another wedding, would you come?' We're not even asking for gifts, we don't want any gifts, that's not what it's about. But do we want to have a lot of people, do you want to make it interactive, you can do whatever you want."
Joking aside, Wendy says they're looking forward to being on equal footing for once.
"It feels like the state is catching up with our relationship. And I bet a lot of people feel that way. That the marriage itself seems like a victory but none of that day to day stuff that we have been doing in our relationship will change."
Back in New Haven, Robin Levine-Ritterman is contemplating what today really means as she and Barb get ready to apply for their marriage license.
"It shows me that public opinion is really changing. It's not like when gay people get married, its going to in some way lessen heterosexual people's marriages or change that. It's going to give us rights but it's not going to take away any rights from other people."
Both couples know that once they marry in Connecticut, their marriages will only be recognized in a couple of states. But as Barb Levine-Ritterman says they're hoping for a time when the entire country understands that while they may not look like a traditional family, their love is no different.