Siobhan and Maritza Nelson, like most parents, savor days at home with their growing son, Mars. “Mars is the center of our lives,” Siobhan says, “We are always thinking of him, and how every decision we make impacts his life.”
The happy family of three resides in Reynoldsburg, OH, where they enjoy playing LEGOS, curling up in their living room to a sci-fi movie, and cheering on Mars at his track meets. “Our family is a study in yin and yang. We are opposites in so many ways, but we also fit together perfectly,” Siobhan gushed.
Siobhan and Maritza were thrilled that Mars could serve as the ring bearer at their wedding. After being in each others lives for 10 years, they were married on May 15, 2010 in Washington D.C. A close family friend officiated the ceremony at an art gallery in DuPont Circle.
“It was a fairytale day,” Siobhan beamed, “one that truly celebrated not only the life that we were building together, but the people in our lives who were supporting us.”
The couple even incorporated the old tradition of jumping over a broom (which they wrapped in rainbow ribbon!) to finalize the ceremony. “Jumping the broom is an act that was performed when slave marriages, like ours, were not legally recognized. That broom now sits on the mantle of our fireplace,” Siobhan said.
Though they were legally married in Washington D.C., the family lives in Ohio, where they are treated as legal strangers. “We hope that Ohio will one day do the right thing and recognize marriage equality, but nothing in state or federal law can change our commitment to one another,” Maritza explained. The couple chose to settle down in Ohio, where Mars’ father lives, so Mars could continue to have a strong relationship with his dad. “Because we both have great relationships with our own dads, it was important to us that we give Mars the opportunity to have the same type of relationship with his dad.” Siobhan said, “We think it’s somewhat ironic that there are arguments about family, and what’s best for raising children, and here we are living in a non-marriage equality state because we wanted to do what was best for Mars.”
Despite their marriage being legal in D.C., Siobhan and Maritza are not afforded the same rights and protections as other married couples in Ohio. They hope to continue to grow their family soon through adoption, but are facing many obstacles. “State law controls property, child custody and adoption, so we must take several additional, costly, steps to protect ourselves in each of those domains.” Siobhan explained, “because we cannot adopt as a married couple, we must choose who will adopt, then initiate a separate action in juvenile court whereby the adoptive parent relinquishes sole custody in favor of shared custody with the non-adoptive parent. The additional time and money are significant when you consider what we could be doing for our family instead.” For the Nelson’s, their choice to keep their extended family together in Ohio is limiting their ability to add to their nuclear family. It’s time that Ohio does not force couples like Siobhan and Maritza to make these challenging decisions.
We are thrilled that the Nelson family is able to share their love and care for each other all of their lives. Families like theirs help remind us why the fight for marriage equality is essential nationwide–and in Ohio. It’s time for Ohio to respect their love and commitment by allowing Siobhan and Maritza and thousands of same-sex couples across the state to share in the freedom to marry.
“I fell in love the moment I saw Maritza. Within two minute of speaking to her, I knew that she was always going to be in my life.” Siobhan glowed.