The American Civil Liberties Union Announces Winners of "My Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding" Contest

April 3, 2014 12:00 am

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Five Couples Win $5,000 each towards the Wedding of their Dreams as part of Campaign to Raise Awareness Regarding Inequality in States Where Same-Sex Marriage is Not Yet Legal

April 24, 2014

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union announced the five winning couples of “My Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding,” a national campaign that calls attention to the patchwork of state laws that allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry in 17 states and the District of Columbia, but deny other same-sex couples that freedom in the rest of the country.

“We’re thrilled by the amount of attention and support this campaign has received from across the country,” said Director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project, James Esseks. “These couples demonstrate both the deep love that LGBT Americans share, as well as the challenges they face when they’re married but living in a state that does not legally recognize their marriage.”

Almost 200,000 friends, families, and supporters voted for couples from across the country, and the winners of the “My Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding” contest are strong advocates for the freedom to marry:

  • Jeff Robertson and Jeremiah Pyant (Houston, Texas): After meeting on an airplane, the couple catapulted to national awareness when the video of their surprise engagement went viral. Because of Jeremiah’s job as a flight attendant, he could literally be recognized as a legally married man one minute—and not the next—as he flies from state to state.
  • Tamara Sheffield and Maryja Mee (Salisbury, North Carolina): The college sweethearts of 24 years founded their community’s first Pride Parade in 2011, and work year-round on issues related to anti-bullying and equality for all.
  • Rafael Vasquez and Humberto Niebla (Paradise Valley, Arizona): Together for six years, it is especially important for this couple to tie the knot as they’ve struggled with Arizona’s ongoing battle to recognize equality for same-sex couples.
  • Jeromy Manke and Brian Jensen (Reno, Nevada): Growing up extremely religious in Nevada, each man faced anti-gay discrimination and now both are active advocates—along with their families—for gay rights within local government.
  • Megan Smith and Lindsey Wagoner (Chattanooga, Tennessee): In 2013, these Southerners founded the advocacy effort, Tennessee Marriage Equality, because they believe that marrying the person you love should be legal in every state.

“We want to get married so we can stand in front of our families and friends and make a lifetime commitment to each other,” said Sheffield and Mee. “We’re thankful that the ACLU has provided this amazing opportunity to make our dream a reality, but it’s unfortunate our wedding must take place outside our home state for our marriage to be legally recognized.”

The ACLU will help these same-sex couples go the extra mile down the aisle—border-crossing weddings include a hot air balloon ride from Texas and a carriage ride from Tennessee—into a state where it is legal to marry, highlighting the current inequalities that exist between neighboring states.

As detailed in this video featuring members of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, allies and supporters of the freedom to marry can now enter the “Wedding Crashers Sweepstakes” for the chance to win a VIP trip for two to “crash” the marquee “My Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding” reception in New York City on Monday, May 19, 2014.

Participants enter the sweepstakes by signing the winning couples’ wedding guestbook at, which will then be delivered to lawmakers in the couples’ home states as a petition calling for the freedom to marry in those states.

The “My Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding Reception Sweepstakes” is sponsored by the ACLU. No purchase necessary to enter or win. Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, D.C. & Puerto Rico who are of legal age of majority in their state of residence. Starts 12:01 a.m. ET 3/28/14, ends 11:59 p.m. 5/07/14. Void where prohibited. Subject to Official Rules, available at


About the ACLU
For more than 90 years, the ACLU has been our nation’s guardian of liberty, working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country. The ACLU brought its first gay rights case in 1936 and has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights ever since, including representing Edie Windsor in her successful fight to get rid of DOMA.

About Purpose
The My Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding project and sweepstakes is a joint project of the ACLU and Purpose. Purpose is a revolutionary social business that creates and launches new ventures and movement organizations in the areas where they can make the most difference, deploys that experience as movement creators to consult to the world’s leading organizations, and helps put purpose and participation at the core of what they do. Learn more at and

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