by Eric Carlyle
There are a lot of people who have greatly influenced my life, from Outsports founder Cyd Zeigler to NCLR’s Helen Carroll. They have been role models in the fight for LGBT sports equality.
But today I think about two other people who have greatly influenced my life. Karen Bailey and Nelda Majors first met on the softball field more than 57 years ago. Though they were just 18 and 19 at the time, they have built a loving, special life together.
Over the years these two women have shared more than their love for one another. They built a successful business in Texas together before moving to Arizona. And when a family member was in difficult circumstances, Karen was granted custody of her two great, grand nieces, making their family of two grow to a family of four. Still, Nelda had no rights to the two daughters she helped raise and Arizona was not recognizing same-sex marriage.
The long-committed couple made a case for marriage equality in 2013 when they were part of the events on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court during Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case arguing California’s infamous Proposition 8 that banned same-sex couples from marrying in that state.
Just a year and a half later in October 2014, after nearly 57 years together, Karen and Nelda were legally married in Arizona, the state they love so much. They were married by their church pastor with their beloved girls as their attendants.
Now, since the Supreme Court ruling has legalized same-sex marriage, their union is now federally recognized. But I really don’t think the Supreme Court redefined marriage—I think brave people like Karen and Nelda have redefined it … and for the better.
Karen and Nelda were both athletes, but that is not why they influenced me. They influenced me with their courage to ask for equal treatment under the law – they asked for their love to be recognized as valid as that of any other committed couple.
Because of their courage, marriage for those in the LGBT community no longer needs to be defined as same-sex marriage – now it’s just marriage. Karen and Nelda have proved that love truly does win.
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