It began in Washington, D.C., with the squeak of sneakers on marble as interns dashed out of the U.S. Supreme Court to hand television crews the news. Just after 10 a.m. on June 26, with a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex marriage became legalized in all 50 states.
In Cleveland, another race was afoot. Dan Seifried and Rob Rivera saw the news in their Playhouse Square hotel room and rushed to the old Cuyahoga County Courthouse.
They arrived out of breath and a bit peaked, but they were gloriously happy to be the first Cleveland couple to be issued a marriage license. "We had the option of going to D.C. or New York," Seifried said to the throng of cameras that greeted them, "but we've been holding out for the purpose of having the state of Ohio on our license, because we're born and raised in Ohio."
A few minutes later, Ohio license in hand, the couple of 10 years embraced in a hug of equal parts joy and relief. They'd already planned a commitment ceremony that evening but ended up getting officially married by city councilman Joe Cimperman.
And that was only the beginning.
State Rep. Nickie Antonio, at the back of the Statehouse chambers in Columbus, cried when the decision came through. A longtime advocate for marriage equality, Antonio texted her partner of 21 years, Jean Kosmac: "We won. I love you!"
In front of her, extending all the way to the speaker's lectern, legislators with rainbow ribbons on their lapels turned to give her a thumbs up. It had finally sunk in — the love of her life had been validated.
Cupid's arrow had been victorious. "Love Wins" became a trending topic on social media. More than 26 million people changed their Facebook profile pictures to celebrate and stand with pride for the millions who could now wed the ones they loved. And a vibrant future arced before us in which today's children never have to know what it's like to fight for marriage equality.
"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in his Supreme Court ruling for the majority on marriage equality. "In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were."
In the following pages, we examine the lives and relationships of a variety of same-sex couples who are now made greater by a public recognition that their love is valid and true. Let nothing tear them asunder.