On the eve of the California Supreme Court's ruling on the validity of Proposition 8,the amendment to the California constitution implemented last November effectively banning same-sex marriage, it's easy for the opposition to forget about the 18,000 couples whose lives have been put on hold for months or who may be forced to dissolve their marriages in 24 hours. They're real people with real families who want nothing more than full civil rights and equal protection under the law.
Cas & Ricky are one of those couples and are featured in 13 Loves Stories, a multimedia advocacy project created by London-based photographer Gideon Mendel,creative editor Derrick Shore, and select UCLA students, featuring the lives of 13 couples who have been profoundly impacted by Proposition 8.
"The fact that I'm Jamaican and I'm not a citizen and I can't get married to my partner whom I love and share a child with it hurts", says Ricky.
"When I think about people who don't believe we should have families or that we should be married I don't believe those people understand love", says Cas. "Love doesn't stop at the boundaries of heterosexuality. Love encompasses all of us.
It's hurtful and I get angry when I think these people in this country, in this day in age still wants to discount us. We're not some scary sexually deviant octopus-like monster coming to destroy your family. We're our own damn family living our own damn lives", notes Cas.
Black and latino gay and lesbian couples were noticeably absent in the media leading up to the initial vote for Proposition 8 (mis)leading many to believe that this was a white issue that didn't affect people of color. Cas offers the money quote:
"One of the reasons we participated in this wonderful project is because you hardly ever see our demographic represented whether in ads or articles about gay men. We wanted to let the black community see that when they vote for measures like Prop 8 they are voting for discrimination of their own brothers & sons & daughters."
Watch Cas & Ricky's story here.
Leona Michelle Strong & Grace Sonya Harper partnered for 21 years.
"Our love is no different than the average person", says Grace.
"We believe in love and support and treating people the way we would like to be treated-which is fairly", says Leona. "We're dysfunctional like the rest of the world. We have our problems, she gets on my nerves, I want to send her to the moon on the first flight and I'm sure she'd like to send me their on the second flight. But we love each other and when we have our spats we just take a minute and we come back and love each other".
"Prop 8 made us cry...made our hearts feel very sad", says Grace. "I wasn't angry... I was hurt and disappointed, because all I think that's needed is that people get an opportunity to talk to people like me and Sonya they wouldn't have voted(for Prop 8). They would have said they're just regular people."
Watch Leona and Grace's story here.
Byron and Raymond married August 30, 2008 after 6 years together.
"It's been a long six years, says Raymond. "We've had our girls now for going on 2 years and during those 2 years I was diagnosed with cancer.Byron has been by my side the whole time and I've fallen in love with him even more than I thought I could be in love with him. He never accepted that I was sick. My cancer is now in remission.
"To see both our names on a marriage license made me happy", says Raymond. I can get sick at anytime and if I'm sick and dying in the hospital and Byron can't get my benefits I can't be in peace. I would have to wonder about him and the girls and how they would take care of themselves, but now that we're married all of my benefits can go to him."
Watch Byron & Raymond's story here.