Documenting Same-Sex Couples and the Defense of Marriage Act

I, Amy, Take You, Alex

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Amy and Alex, of Virginia, exchanged wedding vows on March 20, 2010, a week after the District of Columbia legalized marriage for same-sex couples. They were full of joy, unaware of the obstacles they were about to face under the Defense of Marriage Act.

Images by Amanda Lucidon

Alex shares her journal entries with the Legal Stranger Project.

March 20, 201o entry: Goodbye Amy Sokal

I kissed Amy Sokal goodbye this morning and wished her a good day. Today was the day Amy would become Amy Khalaf and I couldn’t have been happier. We wanted to do our own thing today so that we would have that “wow” moment when we saw each other in our wedding attire. Since we were getting married with ten other couples in the same venue we wouldn’t get to experience the walking down the aisle but honestly, today, the fact that I could MARRY the woman that I love and adore trumped everything.

I was almost in a daze listening to the words of the wedding ceremony. When I finally heard “I, Amy, take Alex to be my lawfully wedded wife…,” I snapped out of it and watched Amy put my wedding band on my finger.

After the wedding ceremony, my parents joined us for a piece of cake and a short celebration. We left that auditorium as a married couple today and I’ve never been happier. I thought I would be scared but I think once you have found the “one,” there is nothing scary about making a pact to spend the rest of your life with them, and to grow old with them through it all. I would do it all again tomorrow.
- Alex

Images by Amanda Lucidon

August 20, 201o entry: In Front of Friends & Family
I’m writing this as we are getting prepared for our honeymoon to Paris and Rome. Yesterday Amy and I shared our love for each other in front of our family and friends and it was such an incredible feeling!

Even though we were technically married in March, we were alone when we shared our vows. We would have loved to have a wedding with our family and friends and then the reception all in the same day but we couldn’t get legally married in Virginia where we live and it was too expensive to have our wedding and reception in DC. So we got married in DC and then five months later, we had our reception in the backyard of our house with all of our loved ones here.

Honestly, I could not have asked for ANYTHING more. Amy and I were on a tight budget so we did a lot of the work ourselves and really worked hard on finding economical options. We turned our backyard into such a beautiful area for a wedding. The best part was that I felt 100% NORMAL with our ceremony/reception.
During our legal March wedding, we were with ten other gay couples so we were of course reminded that we were “different.” Yesterday, it was just about me, my wife and our families. There was the white dress, the suit, the aisle, the flower girls…just as I had always wanted. I never really imagined walking down the aisle in a white dress anyway, so wearing the suit felt much more natural to me.

I still really wanted my dad (my best friend) to walk me down the aisle first before Amy’s father walked her down the aisle. My dad and I hate to be the center of attention, so we couldn’t wait to get to the end of the aisle.

Although my dad has had a bit of a hard time adjusting to my gay lifestyle since I’m his only child, I knew he was happy for me and at peace with my decision to marry Amy. My dad kissed me on the cheek and sat down.

I waited for Amy to arrive at the aisle. I looked out into the yard at all 105 people waiting and I was terrified. As soon as I caught the first glimpse of Amy in her wedding dress, I felt like I could faint. I figured it wouldn’t affect me so much since I had already seen Amy in the dress in March, but it was just as intense for me. She looked amazing and all of a sudden all of the people that I was nervous about watching me in the crowd, disappeared. It was just and Amy and me.

Our ceremony was short and sweet. Everyone we love was able to watch us exchange our vows and our kiss! Honestly, I feel so extremely blessed for everything that God has given me. I am thankful each and every day with Amy.
- Alex

Images by Amanda Lucidon

Eager to start a family, the newlyweds saved money and planned to conceive a child through artificial insemination. Since the federal government doesn’t recognize their marriage, Amy is ineligible for spousal health insurance through Alex’s plan. Instead, Amy’s health insurance agrees to cover her as a “single mother” for five cycles of artificial insemination.

Since Amy will be carrying the child, some of Alex’s duties include selecting the donor and transporting a 20-pound tank, containing a vile of sperm packed in dry ice, from the Cryobank to the fertility clinic.

April 17, 201o entry: A Little Prayer

Yesterday, Amy and I went to Shadygrove for our second attempt to get pregnant through insemination. We felt much more prepared and relaxed this time around. I’m not sure why but we also just felt a bit closer emotionally. We are becoming quite a good team and it feels really nice having that support and comfort with someone.

The insemination itself went great. Last time our donor’s sperm count was a bit low and this time it was at least within normal range but still not very high. The process was short and sweet. After the injection, we got five minutes to sit together and just relax. I thought five minutes was a bit short, so we ignored the timer and we took a few minutes to chat. I gave her stomach a kiss as I said a silent little prayer.

- Alex

HOME VIDEO: Amy & Alex can’t wait to get their results from the fertility clinic so they take a home pregnancy test:

April 17, 201o entry: Best Moment in My Life
I’m going to be a MOTHER!!!! I’m so ecstatic that my hands are trembling writing this journal entry! We survived the two-week waiting period. So, it’s 99% official that Amy is pregnant, according to our home pregnancy test.

All day, Amy and I looked at each other with almost terror knowing we were going to test when we got home tonight. Right before Amy went in the bathroom with the stick, we made a promise not to be disappointed if it was negative.

I made sure to read the instructions on the pregnancy test five times before letting Amy go to the bathroom. I waited outside the bathroom shaking. My heart was pounding. My head was spinning.

After she took the test, we agreed she would put the stick down on the sink and walk out and we would check the results together. It said to wait a few minutes, so instead of sitting having panic attacks together anticipating the results, we tried to work on a crossword puzzle. We couldn’t think of one damn answer. When the timer went off, we held hands and walked into the dark bathroom. On the count of three, I hit the light switch and we both leaned down to see the word PREGNANT across the screen. I had a moment of complete stillness. My mind went blank.

I immediately said, HOW ACCURATE IS THAT THING?!?! So, I made Amy drink another two glasses of water and take another test. Sure enough, the second one said PREGNANT again!! Amy was sitting on the floor when I read the second result from the bathroom when I lifted her up, she wrapped her legs around my waist and I held her in my arms as we cried together.

Tonight had to be one of the best moments in my life, one that I will ALWAYS remember.
- Alex

Alex just discovered that she will not be listed on her child’s birth certificate and that she is unable to adopt her own child. The Commonwealth of Virginia does not recognize the marriage of same-sex couples and has banned adoption for gay parents.

July 12, 2011 entry: Grave Mistake

I can’t seem to get my head around the news I found out today. I have been with my LEGAL wife through our entire fertility experience. I chose the donor, I picked up the donor sperm, and I held my wife’s hand through each and every doctor appointment. It was OUR decision to raise a family, to raise a beautiful child together, in a house full of love and respect.I have no words to describe the void in the pit of my stomach and heart as I write this journal entry. – Alex

Today, I discovered that since I am not the one carrying our child due to medical reasons, that I am basically considered NOTHING in the eyes of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I have lived in this state for my entire 32 years of life, and even more so, I’ve never left my zip code.

I am beyond devastated that I live in this state. Why on earth would ANYONE go out of their way to stop loving couples and parents from giving a child a home and a safe environment to be raised within.

This should be a time of joy and absolute excitement, a baby growing and developing each and every day as I hold my wife’s belly every night as we fall asleep. Instead, I am left feeling like an outcast, like a nothing, insignificant and abnormal.

I feel distraught and honestly defeated.

Please tell me how I can teach my child that it is a safe and loving place to be when I can’t even feel proud to hang my own child’s birth certificate because it lists my wife as a single mother and I am nowhere to be found.I am basically considered NOTHING in the eyes of Virginia. – Alex

How do I explain to my child as it grows up that in our state, I am not your mom, that there are people out there who go out of their way to make sure our family cannot be complete? It makes no sense to me. How will I feel safe bringing my child into this country knowing that it will feel a sense of loss because our family is not recognized in the state’s eyes?

I have no words to describe the void in the pit of my stomach and heart as I write this journal entry.

My parents are both immigrants and now citizens of the US. They never stop saying how America is the GREATEST country on Earth and how amazing it is to be here and all of the opportunity. I have felt that way for most of my life until this moment, where I feel like America and Virginia is making a grave mistake on this issue.”

- Alex

September 20, 2011 entry: Legal Stranger
So, here we are at 24 weeks, and Amy and I have to find a new Obstetrician. After meeting an amazing doctor whom we truly felt connected to, we discovered from an LGBT lawyer that it was very ill advised to deliver in Virginia.I hope that one day, our child will read this, and things will be different. – Alex

If we decided to move forward with delivering in Virginia, even though I am legally Amyʼs wife, I would be considered a “legal stranger” to my wife and my son or daughter. I felt defeated, frustrated, sad and angry learning this new information. I found myself understanding why some LGBT individuals feel like life is too difficult and either turn to drugs, promiscuity or suicide. How is someone supposed to live a normal life when every which way we turn, we are told that we are anything BUT normal.

We can now get married, but we canʼt have a family? If you are to give us “rights” then just give us the right to live equally to heterosexuals. I feel like a dog begging for bits of damn treat!! You sit and wait for these “politicians” to decide whether you get to be called a “mother” in the eyes of the law, whether you have rights, whether you are anything significant to the world around you.

We have NO choice but change our doctor, change our hospital, change everything that we decided upon in order for me to POTENTIALLY have rights to my own child when itʼs born in January, 2012.

I wish for one second, these people that deprive us of
our rights, felt what I feel, or knew what itʼs like to live in my shoes. My wife and I donʼt get to sit around and celebrate the baby’s first kicks…instead we are bogged down with trying to find an OB who is willing to “take us in” at 24 weeks. I spent hours calling 16 doctors in this area in order to find one who was willing to take a woman so pregnant. I had to explain to them that we DID have a doctor and we had to leave him halfway through this pregnancy in order for me to be on our childʼs birth certificate.

My pregnant wife cried all day because of all of the stress. As a partner and a wife, it tore me apart. She should be glowing, elated at the idea of carrying a life in her body and being happy that we are about to begin an amazing journey as parents. Instead, I have to hear her cries and her frustrations about the law, and how she is scared that our family will be tested
by the hospital, the law, everything.

The world starts to feel very small when youʼre put in a situation like ours. All of a sudden, youʼre made to believe that you are not worthy, that thereʼs something wrong with you for loving another individual who happens to be the same sex. There is absolutely no difference between the love I feel for my wife and unborn child as that of a straight couple, itʼs impossible.

I hope that one day, our child will read this, and things will be different.
- Alex

Images by Amanda Lucidon

October 2, 2011 entry: Mom-to-Be
Amy and I just had our baby shower today. I’m not sure why but for some reason this all seemed a bit unreal until today. After the shower I stood in front of all of our baby clothes, blankets and gear and it hit me that in a few months, our baby chickpea would be here, sitting in that high chair, using those bibs and being pushed in this stroller. What an incredible feeling, scary yet so exciting!

I was so nervous before the shower. I felt incredibly anxious that people would come out on their day off to celebrate us and our family. I had a hard time believing that people can really be here for me and be supportive. After all this heartache with the law and documentation etc., it felt like a relief to just be in the moment and feel like a real mother. No one looked at me as a guardian or partner, they saw me as a wife and our child’s mom-to-be and that is all I really want. – Alex

Victoria and my mom planned this whole day and they did an amazing job. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better day. I was so thankful for everyone who came. There were probably 45 people here today. We had family, friends and coworkers with us.

Victoria bought a mommy-to-be-sash for Amy which was so cute, but honestly once she put mine on, I found myself grinning from ear to ear. Most of this pregnancy has of course been focused on Amy since she is the one carrying, however, to wear my mommy sash was such a great feeling! I’ve been hanging out in the background during this time just trying my best to be supportive of her. Today was about all three of us and I can’t tell you how amazing that felt.

The best part of today was that it was all about me, my wife, and our baby Khalaf. No one looked at me as a secondary part of this trio. After all this heartache with the law and documentation etc., it felt like a relief to just be in the moment and feel like a real mother. No one looked at me as a guardian or partner, they saw me as a wife and our child’s mom-to-be and that is all I really want.
- Alex

Amy & Alex seek the advice of a lawyer to draw up legal documents on Nov. 3, 2011. There is no legal contract similar to marriage, assigning same-sex couples the 1,138 marital rights granted to heterosexual married couples. Through legal delegation, the only parental rights Alex can be assigned is temporary guardianship for 180 days.

Dec. 15, 2012 entry: Bags Packed
I have the hospital bag packed. Well all THREE bags packed! I can’t believe I have so much stuff. I think I used three lists of what to bring to the hospital, including the one from our doula. I have one suitcase full of blankets and a pillow. One with all of our clothes and comfy slippers and baby chickpeas first outfit. My last bag is full of stuff, an ipod player for Amy’s soothing labor music, a lavender oil diffuser, books, mad libs, massage oil, heating pads, etc. I feel like an idiot with all this stuff. It’s like we’re moving into Sibley for the week. I want my wife to feel like ANYTHING she wants, I’ve got it. This is ridiculous.
- Alex
Jan. 6, 2012 entry: Over It
I can’t believe today is the day our baby is supposed to be born. I have been telling Amy that she’s been making it too comfy in there and that he/she won’t want to come out. Amy is over it. She’s over being pregnant, “overweight,” tired, sweaty and unable to tie her own shoes. To be honest, I am too. I’m going crazy with anticipation and I can’t wait to see if our little one is a boy or girl!!!
- Alex
Jan. 6, 2012 entry: Googling Contractions
Okay, no baby yet. Everyone I see at work asks me where’s the baby. I have a million texts from friends and family asking if it’s a boy or girl. Hell, she hasn’t even had a contraction yet! Amy is now questioning what a contraction feels like!? So, now I’m up all night googling contractions. – Alex Google and I have been GOOD friends for nine months.

I’m even more nervous today. I feel like tomorrow might be the day. I feel like an emotional wreck and I need to pull myself together. Thoughts are flooding into my head about if it’s a girl, then will she want to date young and then what?!! And if it’s a boy, will he be okay with two moms!?! I’m driving myself nuts, so I thought writing would help. Of course, Amy has her game face on, like nothing is phasing her. Thank God she’s the pregnant one!

- Alex

On Jan. 11, 2012 Amy and Alex welcomed their daughter, Camille Harper Khalaf, into the world.