When Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham and her girlfriend traveled from their home state of Mississippi to San Francisco in the summer of 2008 to tie the knot, Czekala-Chatham was thrilled to be a part of such a politically powerful moment.
At the time, only Massachusetts and California allowed same-sex couples to wed and California voters appeared poised to ban these unions in the upcoming election by passing Proposition 8. Thousands of same-sex couples were getting hitched in the meantime, and the moment felt right.
“Everywhere you went, there were Prop 8 signs,” Czekala-Chatham, a credit analyst in her 50s, recalled. Together, the women found someone who would marry them. With the Golden Gate Bridge as the backdrop, the couple married while people along the road watched, cheering them on. “It was romantic, it was political, I was thinking, yeah, this is the girl I want to be with forever, and this is awesome,” she said.
But two years later, back in Mississippi, the relationship had soured and Czekala-Chatham found herself on a new, grimmer edge of the gay rights movement: same-sex couples who wish to be separated, but live in states that do not recognize their marriages — or their divorces.