Carin Jacobs (left), and Teresa Elston. Photos courtesy of Carin Jacobs.
In 2008, Long Beach resident Carin Jacobs married her wife, Teresa Elston, in a beachfront ceremony with her twin daughters in attendance, excited at the opportunity to formalize their relationship with traditional vows.
At the time, California was the second state in the nation to legalize gay marriage, after Massachusetts. Shortly, however, Proposition 8 put an end to new marriages, though Jacobs’ marriage and others which had been performed before the measure passed remained legal.
“It was such a bittersweet day because we were so excited about Obama,” said Jacobs, remembering the 2008 election results. “He was the first president to take on gay issues publicly. But on that same day Prop 8 passed… we didn’t know how to feel.”
Jacobs, a costume design freelancer and manager of the costume program at California State University, Dominguez Hills, spent the next seven years advocating for marriage equality, as a member of the steering committee for the local chapter of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and making frequent trips to Washington, D.C.
Through HRC, she’s helped organize the marriage equality rally, set to take place this evening at 5:30PM at the Long Beach Civic Center Plaza outside City Hall, celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision.
“For me personally, this just boils down to family,” Jacobs said. “The legitimacy of the value of family.” She cited the significance of President Obama’s recognition of the legality of gay marriage.
“For the nation to come out and say our nation values your family […] I’ve been crying all morning, it’s been so emotional,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs listed the benefits of the decision, noting the likelihood of “all those kids in small traditional towns,” like many conservative places across the country, being able to come out of the closet and look forward to a life with a stable partner and a legally legitimized relationship.
Jacobs’ daughter, Jade Jacobs, a San Francisco resident, echoed her mother’s thoughts.
“I think that it’s just great stability for families like mine,” she said. “It’s validation that our family is just as important as other families.”
Long Beach’s Rep. Alan Lowenthal voiced his opinion on the matter in a release issued this morning.
“This is a historic day in our national journey towards ending discrimination and extending the freedom for all Americans to live, love, and prosper,” he said in a statement, calling marriage not only a “Fundamental right” but stating that its denial is a violation of equal protection.
“In their decision, the Supreme Court has upheld our nation’s fundamental values of equality, fairness, and diversity,” he said.
Jacobs said the ability to marry her partner changed their family dynamic in 2008. Upon marriage, each family, both hers and her wife’s, treated the respective spouses as members of the family, rather than temporary romantic interests. Both Jacobs and Elston were raised in traditional families (Jacobs’ father is a pastor), and Jacobs said the meaning of vows solidified their commitment to each other for their extended family and their nuclear family.
“Traditional vows mean a lot to parents,” said Jacobs.
A stable marriage came after a period of growing pains for Jacobs. Married at 19 to a man, Jacobs had twins immediately and said she “didn’t even really know what a lesbian was.”
After getting divorced at 22 and attending UCLA, Jacobs’ eyes were opened when she started developing feelings for a female friend around the age of 25.
“It was like someone had given me a pair of prescription glasses for the first time,” Jacobs said. She kept her new identity and relationship to herself for a period of time, as it was the late 1990s and “not as easy to come out.”
However, her relationship progressed to a point when she wanted to include her girlfriend in a larger part of her life, introducing her to her daughters and friends. Her daughters, at the time just finishing elementary school, did not take too kindly to their mother’s new sexual preference at first.
“Initially when she came out to me, I wasn’t telling my friends,” said Jade. “At that time, it wasn’t common to have two moms or two dads.”
Jacobs said her children were resistant to her new relationship throughout the period of dating her former girlfriend. When they broke up and Jacobs eventually began seeing Elston, she decided to see a counselor to introduce her new girlfriend in a non-threatening manner by introducing her as a friend in group settings.
Over time, Jacobs’ twin daughters, Alix and Jade, grew excited to see Elston and fully accepted her as a member of the family. Their marriage in 2008 became the icing on the cake.
“I love Teresa,” said Jade. “She’s a wonderful stepmom. She made our family more whole, complete.”
Jade said she attributes her childhood to making her a better, more loving and open person. Now an interior designer in San Francisco, she said families like her show that families with two mothers can offer a stable upbringing, just as any heterosexual marriage can.
“It’s the same values—can produce normal, adjusted kids,” said Jade. “Any family that has love in it should be afforded the same rights.”