Photography by Rob Howard
Cindy, Webmaster: In high school, there was this girl sitting on the bleachers all by herself, and I asked my friends if anybody knew who she was. One of my friends said she was the new girl from New York City, and I said, “Get her to come sit at our table at lunchtime.” I mean, this is 1974! We thought we were the only two people in North America that felt the way we did. And both of us had dated boys when we were in high school. We just felt we were good Catholic girls that knew how to control our emotions—it seemed to be the only logical explanation as to why we weren’t interested in them. But then we both realized: Hey, guess what? I’m really interested in her. We were ecstatic that we loved each other and had found each other. But we also knew that it wasn’t going to be welcomed by people. We felt very isolated, very alone.
The last few weeks of high school were a living hell because two boys pointed the finger at us—they had no idea they were right. We were threatened with beatings and rape to turn us the right way. But our friends stood by us, and one teacher stood by us. Afterward, Maureen and I actually made a conscious decision to stay home and commute to college because family was so important to us. We wanted to try to work it out with them. And we were quite the anomaly in the gay community at the time because so many people just went to the cities and left their families from the suburbs. Instead, we were able to be out and work with them while our relationship grew.
When our son was a freshman in high school, he actually played DePaul in basketball, and Maureen and I went to watch him. It was the first time we had gone back to our high school since we graduated. I asked Maureen to sit on the bleachers the way she did that day and I took a picture of her. I showed the kids: This is how Momma met Mommy.
Maureen, Parish Worker: Our children don’t realize how much of an effect they’ve had on changing people’s minds. Straight people see a lesbian couple, and if they don’t know lesbians or they’re not close with them, they can’t relate. But when they see a family with children, they realize that Cindy and I as parents have a lot of common with them. We’re all trying to take care of our children, keep them safe, bring them up as best we can.
And it’s a big sigh of relief that we finally have marriage in New Jersey. In 1996, we were at the hospital; we didn’t really know what was wrong with Cindy and the doctor said that we better go to the emergency room. All of a sudden, the staff started asking me questions and Cindy’s on the gurney and we’re rushing through.
They asked me who I was. They said, “Are you related?” And I said, “Well, I’m her partner,” and they started to hold me back and went ahead with her. It didn’t dawn on me at first what they were asking me, that they didn’t want to let me in the room with her. Finally, Cindy yelled out, “She’s my power of attorney! She has every right to come with me!” They didn’t really know how to dispute that. At the time, I wasn’t even thinking. My mindset was: I want to be with Cindy. She needs me. In my mind I was allowed to be with her. Now, thank God, we can use the word “marriage” because we are married. So hopefully, in the future, we’ll have nothing to hold us back or keep us apart.
“We were threatened with beatings and rape to turn us the right way. But our friends stood by us, and one teacher stood by us.”