Our Journey on the C-Bus of Love: A Road-Trip for Equality

Photo by Michael Key/Washington Blade
Two days ago, I had the privilege of finally marrying the man I love. It was unlike anything I ever imagined the big day would be. For starters, my fantasy wedding never involved spending fourteen hours on a bus because my own state has yet to recognize same sex unions. But I also never dreamed I would get to share my wedding with twenty-four other inspiring couples - deeply committed to one another and the cause of marriage equality - or work with two of the most passionate and creative activists I've ever known, Joshua and Stephen Snyder-Hill, and their amazing MarriageEvolved team who went so far above and beyond that my head is still spinning. And in my wildest dreams, I never would have guessed that Dennis and I would venture all the way to our nation's capital, stand before the U.S. Supreme Court and vow our commitment to each other just days before they make a historic decision about the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, and spend the rest of the weekend celebrating with our entire community (in person and through every social media platform imaginable) during the largest Pride celebration our city has ever hosted.

Our adventure began Wednesday evening when we were invited to share our story with 10TV News. Check out the video here:

The next day, we checked into the Westin Hotel in downtown Columbus, Ohio, and met some of the other couples for dinner at Milestone 229 Restaurant. It was very moving to hear their stories, many having lost family members and friends because of their decision to get married. There was a collective sense of enthusiasm and pride over the gigantic step we were all preparing to take the next day.

Bright and early the next morning, we boarded the bus at 5:30 AM and departed on the adventure of a lifetime. As you can tell by the picture below, let's just say I'm a bit more of a morning person than my handsome traveling companion. :)

We arrived in DC a little later than expected, and rushed to get ourselves dressed and primped in time for the ceremony. We took the bus to the Supreme Court and anxiously walked up to the front of the building where we were greeted by a crowd of friends, family, and supporters. It was truly overwhelming to walk around that corner and be so warmly welcomed.

Because of a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, we were not permitted to conduct the ceremony on the steps. In fact, we were not even supposed to be on the grounds at any point. So we lined up on the sidewalk in front of the building and Tiffany Newman began the ceremony. With her first words, I felt myself tearing up because the reality of what was happening swept over me. There had been so much preparation, excitement, activism, and anticipation, but now it felt like it was just Dennis and me taking the most important step in our lives. Here's a video of the ceremony and some photos:

Photo by Michael Key/Washington Blade

Photo by Michael Key/Washington Blade

Photo by Elizabeth North
Photo by Elizabeth North
Photo by Elizabeth North
And then something amazing happened. The guards were so moved by what they experienced that they gave us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Despite the ruling to the contrary, they allowed each couple to go up inside the Supreme Court building, emerge at the top, and walk all the way down the steps to the cheers of our guests. It was a moment we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

Photo by Florin Helf

Photo by Michael Murphy
Photo by Michael Murphy
One of the most overwhelming aspects of the day was the immense outpouring of love and support from our family and friends. I can't begin to express how much it meant to look out into the crowd and see the smiles and teary eyes of Elizabeth North, Nessa Warin, Tessa Cardenas, Pearl Love, Mara McKennen, Michael Murphy, and Bryce Keyser (DC's own Dolly Parton!). Not to mention the flood of Facebook messages, tweets, texts, etc. that kept our phones vibrating the entire day. Every single expression of support added greatly to our day, and we are so appreciative.

(left to right: Tessa, Pearl, Dennis, Paul, Nessa, Elizabeth, Mara, and Michael)

Dennis and Paul with Porcelain St. Clair. Photo by Michael Murphy

After the ceremony, we headed back to the bus and began our journey home, stopping in Hagerstown, Maryland for an unexpectedly fabulous reception at The Gourmet Goat & GG's Restaurant - complete with live music and cupcakes donated and delivered by a baker all the way from Florida. We arrived back in our hotel room in Columbus around 2:45 AM that evening, exhausted but profoundly grateful for all that we had experienced. There was even a surprise gift bag waiting for us in the room, with everything from chocolate-covered strawberries to wine, wine glasses, and more.

Saturday, we headed out to Pride at 10:30, where we marched just behind Josh and Steve, who were the grand marshalls of the parade. As we walked along High Street to the congratulatory cheers from the 300,000+ guests at this year's historic Pride celebration, I felt the support of the entire community behind us. It was so profound. I don't really have the words to describe it properly, but I think you can see it in our faces in this photo by our friend Eric Albrecht.

Photo by Eric Albrecht/Columbus Dispatch

Shortly after we reached the park, we celebrated with a first dance and cake cutting at the main stage. It was also an opportunity for the couples to present Josh and Steve with a token of our appreciation - a plaque with all of our names on it honoring them for their commitment to the cause of marriage equality.

Our first dance was to a song called "I Do" written by Teen Fiction specifically about the C-Bus of Love couples.

The beautiful cake was donated by The End Dessert Company, and it was as delicious as it was colorful!

Saturday evening, we celebrated with some of our close friends with dinner at Portia's Cafe in Clintonville. It was wonderful to be with all of them, tell stories and share photos from our big adventure.

Edwin and Aaron
Perri and Brian

Kelli and Ian
Michael and Melissa
Maria and David
And afterwards, I may have snuck off to Axis for a brief interlude to perform a dance in my underwear and high-heels for Drag-a-Palooza with Josh Snyder-Hill and David Donofrio (or as we call ourselves, The Parisia3)! :)

Photo by Cody Russell Kincaid
Photo by Cody Russell Kincaid
And that brings us to this morning, where we were thrilled to attend the annual Pride Brunch to see Josh and Steve honored for being this year's grand marshalls. Our friends Melissa and Michael joined us, and we were all deeply moved by Josh and Steve's powerful speech that included quotes from important activists like Rosa Parks and Harvey Milk. It really drove home the point that we can all make a difference by choosing to take a stand for what we believe in. I couldn't be more proud to have been a part of this important "road trip for equality."

Michael, Melissa, Paul and Dennis
Paul and Dennis with Stephen and Joshua Snyder-Hill
It feels so incredible to know that Dennis and I have made the ultimate commitment to each other. I love him so much, and I know that we are meant to spend our lives together. We are both deeply indebted to all of the amazing people who worked so tirelessly to make this dream a reality for us and the other twenty-four couples. Much love to everyone we had the privilege of sharing this special day with, especially the forty-eight other people who now have the same wedding anniversary as us. We are all connected now in such a meaningful way and I know we will remain lifelong friends.

Photo by Amy Ann Photography
I encourage everyone to support the work of MarriageEvolved. Plans are already underway for C-Bus of Love 2014, and you can bet we will do everything we can to support the next group of lucky couples who prepare to embark on this life-changing journey!


Kel-Bell said…
So beautiful Paul! I think I cried more reading about your wedding than I did in person at my own wedding! =) Congratulations!
Anonymous said…
Paul, this was so moving, so beautiful, I'm crying as I write this. Thank you for sharing your glorious day with all of us. Much love, Dawn.
Jeaksua said…
Paul thank you so much for sharing this, and your special day with us. I am so glad to call you friend!
Minna said…
This was such a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it. I wish you and your husband all the joy, happiness and success in life.

Greetings from Sweden (where we have had marriage equality for years),

Paige Smillie said…
Thank you for sharing this lovely story with all your fans on Dreamspinner Press!

You're a beautiful couple. I wish you all the best! Your happiness has only just begun.
Brita Addams said…
Congratulations, Paul and Dennis. So happy for you!
J9 said…
Huge congratulations and thank you for sharing it. Being in an interracial marriage, I appreciate the activism and hard work that made my marriage possible and someday soon others will feel the same way about people like you making marriage possible for them! We stand together for marriage equality!

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