OPINION: Love & Marriage in the Era of Trump
I met Janice at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia in 2008 during a training session for housing and residential life. She was pursuing her bachelor's degree and I had just relocated to the area to pursue my doctoral degree after completing my bachelor's and master's degrees at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. During this session, we participated in an icebreaker where we had to place an adjective in front of our names that best described our personalities. Janice, who has a passion for music, said that her name was "Jammin Janice" and that’s when her nickname "Jammin" was born. We went on our first date to go see a movie called House Bunny and made it official on October 2, 2008, which is better known as "HABE COMING." It is an acronym we use to describe our love, which stands for happiness, adventurous, beautiful, everlasting, caring, organic, motivated, intimate, nurturing, and generous.
In 2010, we relocated to the Northern Virginia area to continue to pursue our academic and professional careers. Since relocating, Janice has earned her master's degree from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and began a successful career as an educator and coach with Falls Church High School – even being recognized as Coach of the Year in 2014. I began a successful career as a human capital strategist with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and am currently an Excellence in Government Fellow with the Partnership for Public Service. We have become an active part of our community – becoming both homeowners and parishioners at Alfred Street Baptist Church. We enjoy amusement parks, sporting events, concerts, and traveling.
In 2015, in a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act and took a historic step in the march towards equality by declaring that same sex couples had the right to marry and simply put – love won. This past summer, after nearly 10 years of building a life together, I asked Janice to marry me. According to the opinion of Justice Anthony Kennedy, "In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than [they] once were” and I couldn't have been more excited to strive for greatness together as our commitment evolved past girlfriend and partner to fiancée and wife.
Over the course of our relationship, we witnessed the election of President Barack Obama as the first African American to serve as Commander-in-Chief and who shepherded the fight for marriage equality by repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He also championed diversity and inclusion in the Federal Government and made it clear that I could be both a public servant and a proud member of the LGBTQ community. While our official wedding ceremony is scheduled for next summer in Punta Cana, Dominican Republican, we legally wed on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, prior to the inauguration of Donald Trump, due to the anti-LGBTQ narrative during the presidential election. We selected this day because what better day to say I do than during the final hours of President Obama’s administration and on the birthday of the forefather of the Civil Rights Movement. Several other same sex couples shared our apprehension as local justices of the peace experienced an influx of marriage requests from sex couples after Election Day. Unfortunately, our deepest fears are being realized as the current administration has begun to repeal protections for transgendered persons and is rumored to be drafting an executive order that would further undermine LGBTQ rights.
In my Spotlight on Commerce, I stated, “I consider myself to be the epitome of diversity as my identity rests at the intersection of several historically marginalized populations. I am an African American. I am a woman. I am a lesbian. I am a partner. But I am also a daughter. I am a sister. I am an aunt. I am a niece. I am a cousin. I am a friend. I am a sorority sister. I am a colleague. I am a college graduate. I am a professor. I am a parishioner. I am a homeowner. I am a neighbor. And above all else, I am a human being. I am you.” Yet, the current administration ran in opposition to essentially everything that defines who I am, which is why it is important to tell my love story. I believe that storytelling can help to move the cultural needle by educating and encouraging others to recognize the beauty and benefit of trying to love someone that is considered different than you. This can start, perhaps as so eloquently stated by Republican Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, with someone who is gay. Perhaps, it could start with us – HABE COMING.
Dr. Sesha Joi Moon is a Human Capital Strategist at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office within the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has received the Commerce Spirit Award and was profiled for the Spotlight on Commerce in celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month. She is also a fellow in the Excellence in Government Fellowship Program with the Partnership for Public Service. She holds a Ph.D. in Public Administration and Policy from Old Dominion University and a Master of Science and Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is the principal of Happily Ever Wedded, which is a full-service wedding consulting firm that curates the happily ever after experience for couples from “will you” to “I do.”