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  • My family believes in marriage. I grew up believing that there are just a few things a person needs to be complete. Two of those things are a relationship with God and a spouse.

    When I was ten years old, I was part of the elegant celebration of my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. They recommitted their vows before their three daughters, their ten grandchildren and a host of relatives. Over dinner, we watched a beautiful slide-show of my family history -- most of which were from weddings. I knew then that I wanted that for myself. What kind of joy are we missing out on by denying me the honor of my day?

    Nine years ago, I was best man at my brother’s wedding. Since then, my sister-in-law has not only been a blessing to his life, she has been a gift to our family. She has truly taken her role as the big sister we all look to for comfort, strength, and a leveled voice of reason within our sometimes melodramatic family. When I met my first partner, for the first time I felt affirmed, appreciated and safe by someone who had no familial obligations to do so. He made me feel worthy.

    When my mother suddenly died, my siblings had their significant others to rely on and be comforted. Though I had come out just four months prior, I was still yet single and yearned for the same kind of support dedicated only to me. When I did find him, he became my emotional pillar when losing my favorite cousin way too soon to cancer. However, my experience of having a boyfriend console me in my moment of grief did not come without disdain from some in my family, namely my grandparents who unsuccessfully protested his attendance at my cousin’s funeral. My grandparents seemed to feel affronted when my boyfriend simply greeted them out of respect only for the principle of what he was to me. I envied the carefree relationships of my siblings when it came to family gatherings. With me, it was like walking on eggshells.

    Regardless of the mixed acceptance of my family, we built a life together for five years, sharing a home, bills, chores, a car and a dog. He picked up a second job when I lost mine, and I in turn assumed all the bills so that he could go to school once I had become the breadwinner, picking up overtime whenever I could. Despite the differences leading to our separation, I enjoyed being in a relationship, being a partner and having a partner in life and in love. I do not regret the life lessons and the experience of being loved.

    Although my relationship has ended, I will love again. I came out to my mother before she died and her last wish for me was that I share my life with one my heart confirms. I decided to become an advocate for marriage equality because I believe that my love deserves to be treated like the love of my brothers and sisters.

    Like many of you and like my family, I value love and marriage.

    Branden Mattox
    Atlanta, Georgia
    December 26, 2014
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