Thom Kostura and his husband Ijpe DeKoe are plaintiffs in the Tennessee Supreme Court same-sex marriage case. Kostura is a artist and graduate of the Memphis College of Art Master's Program and DeKoe is a Sergeant on active duty in the Army Reserve.
Correction appended, June 30.
June 26, 2015: 10:02 a.m. Eastern—That time will be burned into my memory as the moment I found out that my marriage is equal.
The full magnitude of the ruling—and what that equality truly means—still hasn’t entirely hit me, even after repeatedly reading my name, my husband’s name, and our story in the pages of the U.S. Supreme Court’s history-making marriage decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy: “Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Ijpe DeKoe and his partner Thomas Kostura, co-plaintiffs in the Tennessee case, fell in love.”
For so long, we’ve lived with the stigma of inequality and the uncertainty about whether our marriage would be recognized or even respected if we traveled across state lines. But today, and every day forward, we are considered equal under the law.
There is a distinct difference in knowing that you will win the right to marry and learning that you have won. It’s almost easy to tell yourself that you are right, and your fight is worth it, because it is. Yet, it’s difficult to process this victory and what it brings.
We joined this case to have our marriage recognized. We had been married in New York, where marriage equality was legal, and had moved to Tennessee, where it was not. But it was our LGBT friends who could not get married at all in Tennessee who most actively supported our fight to challenge the state’s marriage equality ban. These couples bought homes, raised children, invested in their communities, and did all they could to make the state a better place to live.
Knowing that our cause was just and that the laws that dissolved our marriages were fundamentally unfair gave us the strength to agree to this fight. Support from our friends made the fight sustainable. We imagined that our eventual win would merely be a continuation of the emotions we had felt for the past 18 months. We should have known better.
In August 2011, as Ijpe was preparing for his deployment, the words “I do” were bigger then the words “good bye.” Almost four years later, Justice Kennedy’s concluding words—“They ask for the dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”— were even bigger than that. When we were married, I thought it would be the most powerful and emotional moment of my life; but the realization that our marriage and our friend’s marriages are now respected was that emotion multiplied beyond measure.
Our dearest friends, Jon and Paul, will no longer have to list themselves each as “single” on their mortgage paperwork. Our friends Diane and Ginger, two wonderful mothers who have raised their sons in a state that never recognized their family, will now have the security and respect that their marriage and family deserves. As I begin to realize the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision on my friends’ lives and the lives of millions of couples of across the country, I’m stunned.
On Friday afternoon, we received an e-mail from Doug Hallward-Driemeier, a member of our legal team who argued our case in front of the Supreme Court with sincerity and confidence. He wrote simply:
Later that day, between the calls from reporters and well wishes from our friends and family, Ijpe and I found a moment to shut down the television, close our computers, silence our phones, and simply hold each other.
The last few days—not to mention the last 18 months since we first filed our case—has been an emotional ride. We are humbled and proud to have had this opportunity to be part of something so large. Now, to echo the sentiments of Will Batts, Director of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, it’s time for us to BE in the moment, to soak it in, and experience it as LGBT people and not just as activists.
To all, Ijpe and I thank you, we love you, and we look forward to the future together. We have, as the president put it, made for a more perfect Union.
Correction: The original version of this story misstated the amount of time since the plaintiffs filed their case. It has been 18 months.