When the Supreme Court of California ruled on May 15, 2008, that same-sex marriage was legal in the state, I was jubilant because my gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender friends were finally free to marry, if they chose. But my joy was short-lived.
On November 5, 2008, California voters approved Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that limited marriages to those between one man and one woman. The measure passed due in part to financial donations and volunteer-led campaigns from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. California marriage licenses for same-sex couples were available for only 20 weeks.
As the legal challenges to Proposition 8 dragged on for months and then years in the courts, I found myself increasingly discouraged. But one sleepless night in December 2009, I got an idea.
As a former social worker, I know stereotypes flourish in ignorance. I thought that if I could show that same-sex marriages are just like heterosexual marriages, it might help change the attitudes that led to the passage of Proposition 8.
As a photographer, I trusted that my camera was the best tool I could use to tell the story. And I knew just who to ask for help: my dear friends Scott Weldon and Phil Ouellette, who were married during the five months that same-sex marriage was legal in California.
When I shared my idea with Scott and Phil, they graciously invited me travel to San Diego and stay with them for two weeks in February 2010. During my visit, I had unlimited access to photograph every moment of their lives.
I followed Phil to work and then stayed home while Scott cleaned the house, did the laundry and worked in the garden. I went with Scott to his doctor’s appointment and tagged along while he volunteered at his church and a soup kitchen.
I photographed the couple as they did their grocery shopping, entertained friends and family at home, exercised their dogs on the shores of the San Diego Bay, and rehearsed for and sang in church. I even photographed the men in bed.
The fact that we have been close friends since 1993 certainly helped, but, like many of us, Scott and Phil are very private people. Their willingness to open their intimate lives to public scrutiny was remarkable, a testament to the depth of their commitment to the struggle for equal rights.