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One of 18,000

A year, six months, and three days ago I had the honor of exchanging vows with the most important person in my life: my wife. On that special day, we were surrounded by the friends and family who supported our relationship the most. My wife and I had built a strong relationship and both of our families knew we were fully committed to one another.

As my family prepared to openly embrace Leticia as my wife and her first-generation Salvadorian family warmly welcomed me, we shared in front of them our promise of a lifetime of devotion. That single moment completely changed the essence of our relationship. Unfortunately, the celebration was cut short and that same group of people stood by our side during the months when our civil rights were floating in mid-air as a as a result of the whole Prop. 8 fiasco.

I am a fourth generation Mexican-American raised in East Los Angeles. The acceptance of my same-sex marriage by my grandmother, the matriarch of my family, was slow but steady. My very progressive 87-year-old grandmother was emotionally torn because she had a difficult time understanding my decision to marry another woman. She quoted religious scriptures when defending her decision not to attend my wedding, and she did not hide her support for Proposition 8. She could not allow herself to view my marriage as equal to the marriages of my heterosexual cousins. With a lot of time and many honest conversations about love and marriage with myself and other family members, my grandmother has now become one of the strongest supporters of my marriage. Not only does she spend a lot of time with my wife and I, but there have also been instances in which she went out of her way to defend my wife.

My grandmother’s approval of my marriage is so important to me because I never expected her to accept us. Witnessing this change first-hand has shown me that it is indeed possible to change the hearts and minds of millions like my grandmother. I strongly believe that with enough sincere dialogue with same-sex couples, the hardest of hearts will start leaning towards the side of equality. If a family member is confused or reluctant to discuss civil marriage rights for same-sex couples, your discomfort in addressing the issue will be completely worthwhile when you start to see their disposition change. This is especially important in the Latino community, because we possess so much political power. Connecting to another person on an interpersonal level while exposing the most human qualities of love and compassion will help you walk a mile with someone who’s afraid to take one step.

As one of the few (yes, 18,000 is a few!) couples that had the opportunity to legally marry in 2008, I am aware that we have a very critical responsibility to represent the fight for marriage equality. The reality of daily activities has become a sort of rally for marriage equality. When the bookstore clerk asks if my husband will appreciate a book, I respond by saying “my wife will love it!” When the car insurance company is perplexed by two married women on the same policy, I eagerly explain the events of summer 2008 and proudly present my marriage certificate. These seemingly unimportant interactions in the community might be the moment that changes someone’s mind about advocating for marriage equality.

We have already taken so many steps towards marriage equality. Yet while many have pledged their support, there are still millions that don’t believe my marriage should be legally recognized. I continue to volunteer my time to the marriage equality movement because I know that canvassing in my neighborhood and talking to members in my community about equal civil marriage rights is the only way to measure our progress. In the future when my wife and I raise a family in the same East Los Angeles neighborhood I grew up in, I want our children to know that our neighbors have long supported our civil rights.