LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
More than 10 years ago, Nicole and Trish coincidentally crossed paths and the energy was undeniable. “It feels like yesterday,” they remember. “Love at first sight.” A decade later, it’s easy to see why their relationship still works. They naturally complement each other as individuals. They're both kind, passionate and driven to accomplish their goals.
Nicole, 38, is a New York City public school teacher, as well as a teen fitness specialist at the Bedford-Stuyvesant YMCA. Trish, 34, is not only a police officer—an NYPD sergeant, to be exact—but also a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. She fought in Afghanistan and has been stationed in Bahrain, an island in the Persian Gulf, off the coast of Saudi Arabia.
By the beginning of 2011, after having been engaged for a few years, marriage was kind of a distant dream for Nicole and Trish. Not many states had achieved marriage equality. By June of that year, however, when same-sex marriage became legal in New York State, their dream seemed far less distant. The couple began to feel like their whole lives and expectations for the future had changed. They were overjoyed by the realization that they could have a legal and recognized marriage in their home state.
"Once marriage equality became a reality in New York, we started thinking that maybe our marriage could also become a reality," they say. And tying the knot in the Empire State was vital for them. "Getting married in New York was something we were adamant about and refused to do elsewhere. As two civil servants for the City of New York, it felt almost imperative."
THE END OF DADT AND DOMA
Still, there were two other huge hurdles—Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
DADT, the U.S. government's policy of excluding openly gay men and women from military service, was still in effect until September 2011. Throughout their relationship, Trish’s military service had presented challenges. It still does. “The periods of separation have been lengthy, and the stress of DADT and DOMA added to the difficulty,” Nicole says. “Not having next-of-kin qualification, I wouldn’t have been notified if she was injured or killed. That was extremely stressful, especially when lines of communication were down or she was traveling to an undisclosed location.”
The couple briefly contemplated whether Trish should leave the Marine Corps when her commitment was up. When New York became the sixth state to pass marriage equality, she was in Camp Lejeune, N.C., preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan. It was an exciting time, but she still couldn’t marry Nicole because of DADT.
While Trish was fighting overseas, Nicole continued to fight stateside, participating in protests, marches, rallies, petitions and fundraisers. She advocated for DADT's repeal so that Trish could keep the career she had passionately pursued as an officer. She advocated for DOMA's abolishment so they could have marriage equality under federal law. When DADT was repealed, it was a game changer. Nicole's persistence, patience and activism paid off. They could get married, at last, without fear of an administrative separation. And Trish would get an honorable discharge.
The Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of DOMA last summer, in a momentous decision that affected the lives of all gay and lesbian Americans, including those serving abroad in the military. Trish recalls how she felt when both policies came to an end, knowing that her wife would now be recognized for her sacrifice, too.
“DADT was lifted while I was in Afghanistan and DOMA fell when I was in Bahrain. Being part of the military during such historical times is very meaningful,” Trish says. “[After our wedding] Nicole and I were the first Marine Corps-registered same-sex marriage in Bahrain," she points out, "and it felt good to lay the groundwork for future Marines, and set a strong, proud example.”
THE BIG DAY…AND BEYOND
In late 2012, the two were excitedly planning a wedding for the following spring, so they put down a deposit and began arranging their long-awaited dream day. But they had to reschedule the nuptials for January 2013, in order to squeeze it in between Trish's deployments. Only four months after completing her orders for Afghanistan, Trish learned that she would be deployed again in February. "It was more than a little heartbreaking," they remember. Since joining the Marine Corps, between training and deployments, Trish had scarcely been home during the last six years. They knew that if they didn’t push the wedding forward, they'd have to wait at least another year to get married.
"We had waited and fought long enough," they tell us. "We decided to sacrifice the pomp and circumstance…and we pushed our big day to January 18."
Why the 18th?
"We chose the 18th for a special reason," Trish confides. "Throughout our ten-year relationship and even prior for Nicole, the number 19 held significance and always popped up. It’s become a lucky number for us. But January 19 was a Saturday, and the Brooklyn Municipal Building was closed! So we decided on the 18th and will always 'owe each other one more day.' It's a way of reminding each other of the deep commitment we have and saying that no matter what, we always have one more day. We even have ‘one more day’ inscribed in each of our wedding bands."
With the promise of one more day, the loving couple made it legal on January 18, 2013, among a handful of friends and family, in a celebration they describe as joyous and tremendously gratifying.
"We were ready to start the rest of our lives together," they say. "As simple as it was, it was pure magic, and a day that neither of us can stop smiling about, just over a year later. The ceremony was flawless, followed by brunch with the wedding party. After a brief stop at our favorite local hangout, we were greeted by over 100 friends and family at a nearby restaurant in the West Village with a live jazz band. We had a wonderful evening, and we woke up as giddy newlyweds in a downtown Brooklyn hotel, feeling like we just pulled one over on the world."
What was the most memorable part of their wedding day?
For Trish, it was seeing Nicole from across the street as they met at the building in downtown Brooklyn: "She was stunning and that moment was pure joy. The entire day was just amazing. Then, at the end of the night, seeing how many of our friends came from all over the area, NYC and Long Island, to meet and celebrate with us. It was such an amazing gift. Very heartwarming and humbling."
For Nicole, it wasn't really one specific moment, per se: "It was more of an overall emotion that I felt for a solid twelve hours. [I felt] this constant body buzz of happiness and complete satisfaction. It's hard to explain! Almost like an out of body experience. I do remember looking at Trish differently after we said our vows. She was now my wife. My WIFE! Partner in crime for life. It's such a powerful thing to say out loud, and I don't take that honor lightly. I married my 'it' girl."
After their wedding night, Nicole and Trish jetted off to New Orleans for a quick honeymoon. The two enjoyed a week in the Big Easy, watching the city gear up for the Super Bowl and taking in the local sights. They returned to New York ready to enjoy life as a married couple.
Today, they’re excited about the future: Continuing to serve their city and country, sharing their story—hopefully with a kid or two in tow!