We're like a lot of couples out there. We met in college. We've stuck by each other's side through the ups and downs. And we're involved in our local North Carolina community.
The only difference is we can't get married where we live.
That's why we entered the ACLU's "My Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding" contest.
A few months ago, we began asking our friends, family, and neighbors – and even Stevie Nicks, our favorite musician – to support us in the contest. We've been floored by the outpouring of support we received, and we were even more thrilled to be one of the five winning couples of the contest!
The contest prize was an amazing wedding crossing state lines from North Carolina to New York, where we were married last week in a beautiful ceremony.
Our marriage commemorates 24 years of love, commitment, and dedication to one another and to our relationship. A relationship built on trust, forgiveness, compromise, and a promise to love each other through it all. We are so excited to be legally recognized in the United States as a couple, no different than any other married couple.
What is even more exciting about this particular wedding is that we have had the opportunity to represent marriage equality to our state of North Carolina, as well as across the country.
Our story shows that there should be no difference: love is love. Besides, after 24 years of commitment and building a life together, why should we get treated any different than any other couple?
This wedding also gives us the opportunity to celebrate our wonderful life with friends and family. Same as any other marriage — a time for happiness, joy, and love — all to be celebrated.
Tamara Sheffield & Maryja Mee live in Salisbury, North Carolina. They've been a couple since meeting in college 24 years ago, and have become active leaders in their community for LGBT equality.