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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nothing says family like the word marriage

For Chris Williams and Juan McCoy, family definitely comes first. "As parents, we do everything the kids want to do, from tennis to basketball to just being out in the yard," says Juan.

They've got five children aged 9 to 14. "We eat dinner together around a big table every night, just like a typical TV family from the 50's – which is not so typical these days," says Juan. But as a gay couple, Chris and Juan can't get married in their home state of Maryland.

The pair has been together for 13 years. They met at work and still work together – and their relationship is as strong as ever. Juan says of Chris, "He brings balance to my life. Whenever I'm agitated he always calms me down. I think I balance him out too." Recalling Chris' recent birthday, Juan adds, "I love him beyond what I can actually express. We're whole separately, but we're something even better when we're together."

The couple is very involved in their church, where Juan is an ordained reverend and Chris is a deacon. "We would love to stand up in our church and have our pastor marry us – and he's looking forward to doing so," says Juan.

"What I love about Juan most is his spirituality," says Chris. "Spirituality is what brought us together, and has so far solidified this relationship. That's the foundation on which our relationship is based."

In addition to their church, Chris and Juan have gotten plenty of support from their families. Chris' mother likes to say that she's "gained another son." But she would certainly love to see them walk down the aisle. "Being able to say that we are married would bring some comfort to everybody who is a part of our life," Chris says. "They would say, 'Ok well, now they're not living together, they're married.'"

"I want the kids to be comfortable going to school and knowing that our family is legitimate, and our family is just as valid and important as anyone else's," Juan says. "If the children say, 'This is my father's partner,' then you have to go through the explanation of 'What is a partner?' or 'What is a significant other?' It makes so much more sense to say 'husband' instead stumbling for the words to explain the nature of our family."

Being protected in emergencies is also something that the couple thinks about. When Chris had to go into the hospital to have his appendix out, Juan had to say they he was his brother to see him. "It's just inherent in the word marriage that there are certain things that you don't have to prove beyond the fact that we are actually married," says Juan.

But Juan and Chris prefer to think about happier things that might come up. "As fathers, it's important for us to set an example for our children, and show them just how important stable relationships are," says Juan. "I hope that they can look out our relationship, our marriage, and pattern their marriages after what we've built in our home."

Chris sums it up: "Family is love, family is our kids – and nothing says family like the word marriage."

Freedom to Marry is proud to be working with Equality Maryland to win marriage in Maryland so that couples like Chris and Juan can marry.


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