Tobi, Karen, and Edie
By Elaine Gold, Freedom to Marry volunteer
“We call ourselves the gay Cleavers,” say Tobi and Karen. “If you look at any traditional American family, we’re it – except our daughter has two moms. We both work; we love each other and our daughter. All we want is to be recognized as a family.”
When Tobi and Karen met, they had an instant connection. On their first date Karen checked her watch, thinking that about an hour had gone by, and was stunned to realize it was it was already 2:00 am. In time, they moved in together and started talking about marriage. One weekend, on a trip to a vineyard in the countryside, Karen surprised Tobi with a ring.
Their parents offered their full support. Like many parents, they expressed concern about how others might treat the couple but they were reassured as they saw the outpouring of encouragement for their engagement. Karen and Tobi’s bond with their combined families grew even stronger as they faced Tobi’s mother’s breast cancer diagnosis. When Tobi told her mom that she and Karen planned to get married, her mom called the news “the one ray of sunshine in an otherwise ghoulish time”.
In August, 2007 Tobi and Karen said their vows in front of 185 of their family and friends. Karen recalls being overwhelmed by a profound sense of commitment during the ceremony. She immediately felt different, physically, emotionally, and mentally. She and Tobi were no longer dating or living together – this was something on a much higher level. This was a lifetime commitment to Tobi and to protecting the family they planned on having. This was the real deal.
A little over a year later Tobi gave birth to their daughter Edie. Everywhere they went they travelled with a thick file of documents. Papers proving power of attorney, medical proxy, Edie’s birth certificate, adoption papers, and on and on. All the stuff they feared they might need in case disaster struck and Karen’s role came into question.
Once the marriage bill passed in Albany, Karen and Tobi planned a second wedding, this one recognized by the state. They renewed their vows on August 10th. This time their daughter Edie was there, running around between them, hugging their legs and giggling. Edie knew this was something very special to their family. After the ceremony they took the day off and “honeymooned around New York City”. As sweet as the day was, Tobi and Karen agree that – apart from their original marriage ceremony and the birth of their daughter – the occasion that held the most meaning for them was the night the marriage bill was signed into law by Governor Cuomo.
Karen and Tobi feel fortunate that they, with their daughter Edie, are recognized as a family by their own families, and now by the state of New York. They look forward to the day when families like theirs in every state across the nation no longer need to carry thick files of paperwork to allow them to take care of each other in sickness and health. Karen and Tobi’s experience proved to them that “marriage” says “We are family” like no other word.