I am a crusader for marriage equality. I am a lesbian who hopes to float the red carpet to my beautiful wife one day. I am a humanist who believes that everyone deserves life, liberty, love and the pursuit of happiness, and, as such, it is my delight to share this interview with the auspicious activists for marriage equality, Sabrina “Sonny” Jones-Smith and her lovely wife, Joyce “Jazzie” Jones-Smith.
Sonny is from Chicago, and Jazzie is from Durham, N.C. They reside in Stockbridge, Georgia, in a suburb south of downtown Atlanta.
1. Greetings, ladies! It is indeed a pleasure to have you as esteemed guests on my blog! For openers, I love knowing the backstory of where, when, and how a couple met. Please share the beginning of your love story with us.
We met March of 2012 at a function we were both booked to Emcee. Unbeknownst to each other, we ended up co-hosting the event and had a ball! We found out that evening that we both attended the same church. At the time, we both were coming out of unsuccessful relationships. Months later during Labor Day weekend, we reunited at “House in the Park” in Downtown Atlanta in September 2012. Not knowing the other would be there, we met on the dance floor and truly found a connection on both personal and spiritual levels. With much laughter, fun and ease, we haven’t been apart since. We found that we had so much in common. Our professional and social interests, our love of travel and spirituality, and our love of dancing and music brought us together, and to this day the combination sustains us.
2. When did you get married? In what state?
We married March of 2014, in the District of Columbia, in Washington. On the way to our youngest son’s wedding in Martha’s Vineyard, we stopped and had our ceremonial marriage and photo shoot in D.C, with four friends. Our best man was Eugene Cornelius, an openly gay White House-Appointed Deputy Sheriff of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Our matron of honor was White House-Appointed Sharon Lettman-Hicks, who is also the CEO and Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition. Our additional two friends, a same-gender-loving couple that assisted in our union—they previously resided in Georgia but moved to D.C. months before our wedding, largely due to inequality—were Michelle Alexander Dowell-Vest, who officiated, and our photographer, Teresa Alexander Dowell-Vest of Diva Blue Photography.
The ceremony was performed in our best man’s home, a home ironically facing Capital Hill. It was such an intimate moment for all of us. In the back of our minds, we knew that although it was magical, we would be required to host the ceremony again in our home state of GA with the inclusion of our family and friends, as if it were all happening for the first time later in the year.
3. What were the legal stages leading to your marriage? Any hurdles?
The legal stages that we faced are the same for all people: #1, apply for a license; #2, change your name; #3, apply for a new driver’s license, passport, etc. Well, for those in non-conforming states like GA, we have a great divide when we hear these statements from the clerk in an unequal rights state: “She and She- two girls? Two Women? Oh, we are sorry. We can not issue you a marriage license.” So you go out of state and get the marriage license, and in a few states, you can get a name change. However, if you wait and come back to Georgia or other states that are similar, you have to pay approximately $300 per person to change your name. Then the the judge still has to agree to do it. Our attorney informed us that we could change our names on our social security cards and passports, because they are federal; however, it is against the law to have those documents not match our drivers’ licenses. Georgia does not give licenses to same-gender-loving couples. Some couples have done this, but then they can not do any banking because of the driver’s license name difference.
4. Discuss your Equality in Marriage Laws Campaign.
The Pursuit of Happiness is Denied to us at Home and that has to stop! #maydaygaequality
It was during our journey to D.C. that our inspiration came to life from the Southerners Freedom to Marry Press Conference with Mayor Kasim Reed in February 2014 in Atlanta’s Marriage Equality Campaign Initiative. We talked about it for hour. As one of us talked, the other would research the meaning of mayday, mayday, mayday. We found that it was a radio distress signal used during war and a call to action for many campaigns of justice and equality. How befitting for us!
As online media personalities with LouddMouth Radio, we launched #MayDayGAEquality to invite other couples to join us in applying for their Marriage License on May 1, 2014. We wanted our voices heard across Georgia, our home state. We launched the campaign knowing we would be denied, maybe even jailed (although we thought about the jail part after we were cheering each person forward, including ourselves). Government leaders pay attention to the majority crying out. They are not concerned with one or two individuals unless one or two is drawing the attention of many. That is what our goal was–to draw the attention to the many–to over 20,000 known LGBTQ couples in Georgia. The reverberation of our call makes a mark that cannot easily be erased from the records, when thousands cry out in one voice: “We are in love, and we have a right to get married in the UNITED STATES.” We wanted the leaders of our state to recognize that many of us, gay and straight, own businesses that are directly and indirectly affected by the wedding industry. Just from an economical point of view, we lose money every time a wedding goes to another state. The average cost of a wedding is $28,000. Multiply that number by 21,000 known couples in the state of Georgia, and the figure is mind boggling.
5. Where are you now in the walk to marriage equality?
We traveled heavily during the first few months of our #Maydaygaequality campaign to encourage couples and allies throughout GA, hosting press conferences and interviews whenever we could. We did this utilizing our own funds, and then we ran a fundraiser, in which we received backing from a few outstanding and grateful supporters. The fundraiser defrayed the cost of flyers/posters, gas and marketing needs. The cost was intense as we knew it would be, and we had to fall back and rely on social media and our radio show. We then aligned with other smaller and larger groups/churches to rally support for what we were doing to make an impact on all sides to change our state’s laws. We owe a large thanks to the churches and ministers that supported us: Deacon Brandon Maddox with “Love Under Fire” in Atlanta, GA; Restoration Inclusive Ministries with Senior Pastor Sonya Williams in Decatur, GA; Minister Kevin English-Taylor from Tabernacle Baptist Church; and one of our biggest allies and campaign groups in Savannah, GA, Agape Empowerment Ministries with Pastor Candace Hardnett and Minister Erika Majors. We have a host of media partners from radio to bloggers from the US to the UK that have taken the message farther than we could have dreamed.
Marriage matters tremendously to us because it is the outward symbolization to the world of our inward love affair. It opens doors for two people to receive honor as a unit and to be respected as a couple. To be able to have this freedom as a human being in the state where we live, pay taxes, work, play, build homes, raise families, etc., should not be a question or a legal issue. It is our Right as Americans. We live in the USA where cousins can marry each other, but two adults who happen to be same-gender-loving can not! How absurd! We continue to speak up and out for #maydaygaequality locally, through social media, interviews, public stances, and commitment ceremonies, where we can speak through action on a regular basis! We will not stop until victory is won in Georgia…and then abroad!
6. How can people support your efforts? Your fund-raising campaigns?
We appreciate any support financially to advance these efforts. At present, any donation can been paid via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What advice on how to make love last do you have for lovers wanting a serious relationship?
Jazzie: The greatest advice I can give to any couple is found in who you are individually. Love yourself, and appreciate yourself in a way that you never allow anyone to treat you less than the love you give yourself. Once you master this, you will start to attract the same energy from another person. The key is once you have that special someone, in my opinion, you must love the person for who he or she is. Forget about changing the person. Like them right then and there. Lasting friendship builds from a place of mutual respect and acceptance of who a person is. Love and liking them keeps you in a blissful state. Dance often! Anywhere (we do). Laugh a lot, keep passion for each other, and build a strong Spiritual Foundation. For us, it is the best glue to unimaginable joy.
Sonny: To step into the relationship honest and transparent. You cannot pretend to be someone you are not and expect to maintain that status, image, personality that isn’t really you. So many people speak about how wonderful things were in the beginning and the habits and or actions that were shown in the first days, weeks, and months of a new relationship. It is important that both individuals maintain their “truth”~~ meaning you may have some things that you are more than happy to do. You may be willing to explore and maybe there is something that you just are not there with. Be honest about your challenges and struggles. Your partner is just that—your partner in life, in social affairs, and in business. All aspects of you are coming into this union; therefore, it is important that both people are treated equally and respected as such. Most importantly, be sure to communicate, and do everything fun for you and the other person. Enjoy as much as you can everyday that you can.
I am grateful for Sonny and Jazzie! They are not only activists for marriage equality, but also they are drum majors for love and a profound commitment to being the best person that you can be, in order to bring the best of you to a marriage!
Sonny and Jazzie