CHICAGO - Filipina-American Mercedes Santos, 47, and Theresa Volpe, 42, were one of the 46 couples who went to the County Clerk’s office in Chicago last week to obtain a marriage license after a decision was announced that same-sex couples can marry immediately in the state.
Same-sex couples no longer have to wait until June 1, when the marriage equality law is set to take effect following a ruling by Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman.
Coleman said the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and should not stop couples from marrying.
Coleman is the sixth federal judge to rule against a state ban on same-sex marriage since the Supreme Court reversed the Defense of Marriage Act last summer. The five other states to make the same ruling were Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia.
"It makes a huge difference because right now we have all the legal protections under the law and that’s what we were fighting for,” Volpe said. “We have the legal protection for our children as well as for one another.”
Santos and Volpe said that since they started dating 22 years ago, their families and friends have been very supportive.
"Our friends have always known that Theresa and I have always been together," Santos said. "My parents were there when we testified before the Senate hearing. The first time they introduced the bill, her mother was there as well. We brought our parents, our kids, and many friends were with us last year.”
"Our families wanted us to have the same rights as everyone else and they have been very supportive of us as a couple, in general; whether we’re fighting for marriage or not,” Volpe added. “This is just to ensure that our kids are just as equal as their cousins whose parents are allowed to get married; and I think we have accomplished that.”
They hope other kababayans would learn to open their minds and hearts when it comes to same-sex marriage.
"Filipinos are very conservative and religious," Santos said. "That was the biggest concern I had with announcing our wanting to get married to my parents and her community. In the end, they realized that it’s important for families to be accepted and discrimination to be gone."
"We don’t mean harm to anybody, we’re just looking for equality," Volpe said.