When alumna Cayo Gamber legally adopted her partner’s daughter, she had to explain to the 7-year-old why her moms weren’t married.
Twelve years later, the Maryland couple’s now-19-year-old daughter, Blake, is helping her parents plan their wedding. The state approved same-sex marriage through a narrow 52 percent in a referendum Tuesday.
Gamber, a professor of university writing and women’s studies, will wed her 25-year partner, Sera Morgan, next year. The couple met while earning doctorate degrees from GW and plan to file marriage paperwork on Jan. 1, the day the law takes effect.
“We’ve always been a family together, and at last, we’re going to be recognized as a family. I am just so proud of Maryland. I just feel so welcomed,” Gamber said.
Maryland was one of three states to sign off on same-sex marriage through popular vote this election cycle, which has been called the biggest national display of LGBT support in history. A total of 52 percent of the state voted in favor of marriage equality – a close call that kept the decision from being announced until after midnight.
Gamber said Tuesday was one of the happiest days of her life, calling it a “day of completion.”
“It has just been so odd that I have a daughter but not a legal partner,” Gamber said.
When their daughter heard the news, she messaged her moms “the two most beautiful people I know will finally be married.”
Gamber said she and Morgan were best friends for two years in graduate school before they fell in love.
“We both have a great sense of humor about our own faults. We take great joy in one another. She always sees me at my best, even when I’m at my worst,” she said.
For the couple, the fight for equality has spanned decades. They moved from Virginia to Maryland when Blake was 4 years old because of Virginia’s laws that called same-sex couples unfit to parent.
“It became really tough. It was so important that the state couldn’t take her away, which they would have if they had found her with us,” Gamber said. “If I went to the hospital with her, I needed to be able to make decisions.”
A total of nine states and D.C. now allow gay marriage.
Maryland and Washington state legislatures passed same-sex marriage laws this year, prompting political pushback and ballot referendums. Before Tuesday, gay marriage initiatives failed to receive voter support more than 30 times.
Maine’s law passed with support from 53 percent of voters – after voters there repealed a state’s same-sex marriage law through another statewide vote. A fourth state, Minnesota, nixed a proposition that would have banned gay marriage, signaling another win for the LGBT community.
Freshman Eric Wolfert, who worked with Marylanders for Marriage Equality this fall to promote the initiative, said he was overjoyed when the referendum passed Tuesday. The close margin meant that dozens of weekends of door-knocking and phone calls were worth it, he said.
“It’s absolutely phenomenal. We really helped win this,” Wolfert said. He while walking back from White House celebrations, he scrolled through Facebook and learned the measure passed.
Thirty states, including Virginia and Florida, ban same sex marriage.
President of Allied in Pride Nick Gumas said he and the LGBT community on campus are ecstatic.
“It’s a big deal for us. It just shows the general progress of society moving forward on the issue,” Gumas said. “I think it is issues like these [that] our generation views as obvious.”
He added that another important victory on Election Night was Tammy Baldwin’s win of a Wisconsin Senate seat. Baldwin will become the first openly gay senator.
When hearing the election results, Gamber said she felt overwhelmed that the state finally acknowledged her and her partner’s love.
Gamber said she and her partner could have filed paperwork for state benefits before the law, but. “We really wanted to wait for Maryland to approve it. It feels like I am really and truly someone who is from Maryland now.”
Gamber said her daughter’s friends sent congratulatory text messages to the couple when they heard the news. She said hundreds of guests will attend the wedding, which will feature a live band and home-cooked food.
“We just want to dance. We’re all ready from the big party,” she said.
She added,“It’s just this really overwhelming sense of ‘at last, here we are. At last.’ We are truly all a family.”