|Melissa and Meryl with their son, Eli|
After dating for six months and relocating to Cleveland, Melissa and Meryl Soto-Schwartz had a ceremony in 1997 at the Cleveland Heights Civic Center. Then while on vacation in Vermont in 2000, they had a civil-union ceremony at a library. In 2011, they also had a wedding in front of Niagara Falls with their then-10-year-old son, Eli, as witness in the hopes they could receive some form of legal protection for their family. We spoke to them about the importance of marriage equality and what it means for them now that both mothers have joint-custody of their son.
Melissa: I never thought I could get married, or even find a lifetime partner much less anything like this. We’ve been fighting for so long and to know our son and our whole family is validated and recognized and not at risk is the most incredible feeling. No one can come in and break us up in any way, shape or form, and we won’t be denied anything. Until you’re at the mercy of the law, you don’t know what that’s like. To finally have the highest court in the land say, “You can’t deny these people these rights,” it’s incredible. You are finally recognizing my full humanity.
Meryl: I’m going to be able to legally adopt Eli. Since we’re considered a legally married couple by the state of Ohio and the federal government, I don’t have to worry about that. It’s a new landscape. Because of the huge amount of public attention to these issues, there is nobody in America who is not aware that there are same-sex couples among us, same-sex couples who have all of the rights of the law. Knowing that we are married has a huge psychological boost. What allows me to adopt Eli at this point is that I’m married to his biological mother. So, the process will be the same as for a stepparent adoption. Now, of course, I am not Eli’s stepparent, I am simply his mother. But in the end, it won’t matter. In the end, my name will be on a new birth certificate and he will have two mothers, and that will be that. — as told to James Bigley II