Maggie and Cheryl
Like many young people do, Cheryl and I met and fell in love in college. It was 1972, and we were both studying to be nurses. This year, we will celebrate our 39th anniversary of a loving relationship and a wonderful life together.
We live in Portland. I am a tenured Associate Professor of Nursling at the University of Southern Maine.
In 1986, I gave birth to our daughter, Emily. She is, and always will be, the love of our lives. She calls Cheryl "Matka," the Polish name for mother, which she clearly is to Emily. Yet, Cheryl and Emily went through her entire childhood as legal strangers. We did what we could legally to protect their relationship, but if Cheryl and I had been married when Emily was born, the law would have assumed that together we were her parents. Emily would have been legally protected by both her parents, as all children should be.
Our daughter is now 24 years old. She graduated from Skidmore College in May 2009 with a degree in business and returned to Maine where she is, fortunately, fully employed. She is an accomplished racehorse trainer, a future veterinarian and owns a horse farm in Maine. She has a wonderful boyfriend and can marry him if she wishes. We raised our daughter with strong values regarding family ties and the importance of being a good friend and citizen.
It would be so meaningful to us if we could marry in the State of Maine. It is something we know would protect our family as we age. Even now, if Cheryl dies before me -- something I really don't want to think about -- I know that I won't have access to the same legal rights that legal spouses do.
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer. I could not have gotten through this life-changing event without the love and support of Cheryl, who was with me every step of the way. She spent hours waiting and worrying while I was in surgery, and was with me through radiation and the long days of chemotherapy. She was my ear when the doctors discussed my therapy and my rock to lean on. It would have helped us greatly if we could have faced this crisis knowing that we were legally married, knowing that no one would ever doubt that Cheryl had the right to be by my side, knowing she would have all the legal protections available to spouses if something went wrong.
I know that we are already married in the eyes of God and in the eyes of our daughter. I hope in the not too distant future, we will be legally married in our beloved Maine as well.