This blogpost has been a long time coming. I know I should have shared this ages ago – especially from a marketing perspective. Share hot topic blogposts while the topic is hot! But this experience was just so emotional and sacred and big and historical and and and. Any time I start to write this post I just stop because I hardly know how to put it all into words. You all might have seen from our social media outlets that I (Ashley) was at the Wake County courthouse the day that marriage equality came to North Carolina – October 10, 2014. We started partnering with EqualityNC when they used several of our images for their marriage equality campaign last year. When it started sounding like we were going to get marriage equality after the supreme court decided not to rule, I reached out to EqualityNC and shared that I would love to be there to photograph the first weddings happening in Wake County. I felt like I was on call the entire second week of October, as I am sure the couples that were so anxious to get legally married felt. Actually I know I don’t understand that type of anxiety, as I have always had the ability to marry the person I love. I just couldn’t stand that we did not all have that choice in this state. That fine October day, there was a strong possibility that the judge was going to make a decision to allow marriages to begin so I decided to head down to the courthouse to be ready to witness some NC history. I was surrounded by old friends and made new friends while we all patiently waited. It was 5pm and we were told the announcement wasn’t going to be made that day, so we all started to leave (you will see the images bellow where everyone gathered on the steps of the courthouse to pray together and regroup for next week). I was in the car, calling my mom and crying about how sad it was and how sad I was watching couples leave the court h0use in tears. THEN, as we were all driving home, the decision was made and the Wake County courthouse decided to stay open until 9pm. I whipped my car around and made it back to the courthouse in time to see the first couple issued a marriage license in Wake County cut their wedding cake.
I made my way to the courtroom that was kept open late and had the honor of photographing 18 couples getting married until they closed the courthouse. Each couple had different stories – some young couples, some that had been together for many years. One couple came down to the courthouse to watch history happen, but had decided they had been together 30 years and didn’t need to get married. At the last minute they decided to get a marriage license and see their sweet tears as they got married was a highlight of the evening for me. I knew I was shooting a wedding the next day, hadn’t eaten in hours but I just couldn’t leave. I couldn’t stop photographing these beautiful couples that were so full of joy. Each couple was floored that I was there, caring about their marriage. I was even asked to be an official witness for a couple of the weddings. I wanted to give them this gift of photographing their legal marriage… and to show them that a straight-ally, culturally-identifying-Christian woman can love and affirm who they are and who they love.
At 9:00 when the courthouse closed down, I walked out of the building full of so many emotions. It began to rain as I walked to my car and as I attempted to process what I just experienced and witnessed, I started crying. Then it turned into sobbing – a kind of sobbing I have never experienced before. It was this intense moment of letting out the deep sadness from earlier that day, while I was also flooded with the joy of witnessing history. I am also pretty “emotionally sticky” so I know I was just buzzing with the energy of everyone I had been around that day. I felt at peace knowing that some of our best friends now could marry in same state I did, the state that we call home.
I wanted to share images with you that show that entire day – the waiting, the let down and THEN, the rush of big joy. As much as I would love to share every couple I photographed that evening, North Carolina is still not a safe place to be a person that happens to be gay. Therefore, the couples whose weddings I have share with you in this post have given me permission to do so. I will also take this moment to remind you all that, despite the legislation that is trying to be passed right now, we happily choose to work with all kinds of people… even people that we do not agree with religiously/politically/etc. You don’t have to agree with us to work with us. You don’t have to agree with us to be our friends. You don’t have to agree with us to be our family. I think we are missing that component in our world right now – that we can lovingly coexist with all kinds of people.
We always ask that you judge us by HOW and WHY we tell stories, not by whose stories we tell. We believe that it is just part of life to work with people you don’t necessarily agree with on all fronts – it builds good character, broadens your understanding of the world, teaches you new things, etc and so on. We just believe in documenting love and that all people’s stories are important and worth telling.