ARIZONA IS HOME
Luisa Evonne Valdez & Marisa Hall | Arizona
The first night Marisa and I hung out, she made me laugh more in the few hours we spent together than I had in my entire life, and we’ve been laughing together every day since. On October 30, we will celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary and this winter will celebrate seven years together. We knew from that first night there was something different and special between us, and we were willing to do whatever it took to let our love grow.
Marisa grew up in Anthony, Texas, a small town outside of El Paso, and I am third generation from Central/South Phoenix. Although we are not religious, we were both raised Catholic and our mothers still work closely with the Catholic Church. For the most part, our families and loved ones have embraced our relationship with an open heart and little issues. Any reservations were certainly gone after we decided to get married here in Phoenix in 2010. Many asked if we were going to go elsewhere to have our union legalized or if we had plans on moving out of Arizona in order be recognized as a married couple. Our answer was always simple: Phoenix is our home, which is why we’re getting married HERE in front of those who support us. We knew we would have no legal marriage certificate, we knew that the constitutional change of 2008 to define marriage as one man and one woman in our state banned us from recognition, but having our wedding in Phoenix was important to us. And what a wedding we had!
We had a permit from the City of Phoenix to hold our ceremony on the staircase of the historic City Hall building in Cesar Chavez Memorial Plaza. This place is special to us for a variety of reasons. It was where we marched from, alongside 5,000+ people, on November 15, 2008 after prop 102 passed in AZ. It was a plaza named after a civil rights leader that is important to our cultural identities, and most importantly, it was theoretical heartbeat of the city, right in the middle of downtown Phoenix across from our current City Hall. Our lowrider processional parked along an empty Washington Street paired with the brightly colored Dia de Los Muertos themed wedding impressed even the city employees watching from the 14th floor of City Hall at how more beautiful our city looked when celebrating love. After a love-filled and symbolic ceremony, we hosted 250 of our closest friends and family for a reception complete with all the bells and whistles of any other wedding, including the recognition that though we were celebrating this milestone in our journey together, our love was still not protected or recognized.
Today, our love is still growing despite the many inequities of our relationship status. Marisa is a successful local artist, nearly selling out of every show and even had a piece purchased from Mayor Greg Stanton at the Phoenix Festival for the Arts last year. I own a holistic health and wellness company called The Herbalista where I focus on educating and advocating for comprehensive sexual health and HIV awareness, plant-based medicines including medical marijuana, and modified fitness/yoga. However, as a disabled Army Veteran who served my country honor ably, my wife is not recognized as my dependent, my VA benefits are not extended to her or even recognize her, and our state does not validate our marriage. We’re not allowed to adopt children together, we could be denied housing/employment, have no marriage certificate, and can’t comprehend how, as a person who put on a uniform every day on active duty, why we’re treated as second class citizens.
We’re Chicanas. We’re Wives. We’re tax-payers, voters, business-owners, and involved in our communities. We’re Phoenicians, and marriage matters to us.