The Faces of Same-sex Marriage in VA: Meet Andrew and Jesse
This weekend was beautiful. The sun was shining bright and temps didn’t get below 75 degrees during the day. But it wasn’t all play time for everyone; Andrew Goodman, a Campus Rabbi at the University of Richmond, was busy giving a service. His work day wrapped up just in time for him and his husband, Jesse Gallop, to welcome me into their home off Grove Ave. in the Fan neighborhood of Richmond.
The couple, who married in Connecticut in 2010, are part of a second lawsuit against Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. To be fair, every member of VA’s LGBTQ community is a part of the class-action law suit filed by the ACLU. But this particular story is about Goodman and Gallop. It’s about their dogs and their two story row house. It’s about their 9 to 5 jobs and their trips to the grocery store. It’s about correcting each other mid sentence. It’s about being in love and wanting that love fairly recognized.
Goodman and Gallop met in Israel back in 2003. They had both entered Rabbinical school, and the first year of the program takes place in the holy land. The two became fast friends.
“We even double dated a couple of times,” Goodman said. “I was always in serious relationships and he was always dating women,” Gallop joked. They got out of the program about five years later and started dating six months later. Their schedules post rabbinical school were brutal, with as little time off as one weekend a month. After ordination Andrew ended up in New York about 20 miles south of Canada, meanwhile Jesse ended up with a community in Loudon County, Virginia, but lived in DC.
It wasn’t until Gallop came to visit Goodman in 2009 that the two finally got together. Luckily they both found work in Richmond and they moved here in June 2010. This would be their first chance to live together since Rabbinical school.
They got engaged in Jan. 2010, after only a year of dating, but they had known each other and been close friends for about seven years prior.
They got married in a ceremony held in Connecticut in October, 2010.
The two rabbis admit they are in a unique situation. Many denominations of the Jewish faith supports same-sex marriage, and the married rabbis have received great support from both of their communities. “Our Religious denomination is pro same-sex marriage and it’s about monogamous, long-term loving relationships,” said Gallop. “The idea is it’s not about the gender, its about love.”
Also, given their faith, the two are strong proponents of separation of religion and state. “We believe religions that are against same-sex marriage have that right and we’re not looking to spread it there,” said Gallop. “But the same right should be given to us to do same-sex marriages.”
Temple Beth Ahabah had done same-sex marriages since before Gallop joined, he said. “It’s not about me, it’s about the ideology of our congregation.”
Given the leg up they’ve had locally, they felt they needed to be vocal advocates for the larger same-sex marriage movement here in VA. Gallop and Goodman explained their concerns with the law come down to two issues: the religious and the secular. While the secular issue becomes less complex, the real issue for Gallop are the many rights associated with marriage. “The things people take for granted…. until people are married you don’t realize how much it affects daily life, especially when it comes to having children.”
It’s those legal rights which the two fear most – if one of them gets sick, if they want to adopt a child, the state has barriers in place where there should be open doors. “If we’re on a trip somewhere and we get in a car accident, the man I’ve been with for over five years gets hurt, I won’t be able to visit him,” said Goodman taking Gallop’s hand. “There’s a lot that people in the institution of marriage take for granted – that fear of not being able to see your spouse… and having to prove your marriage is somehow legitimate.”
But even their open and accepting faith and professions have had trouble accommodating the couple’s union. When Gallop went to put Goodman on his work-provided health insurance, the congregation’s small provider wouldn’t recognize their marriage. Instead his congregation paid for Goodman’s coverage out of pocket until U of R’s coverage stepped in a year later.
“I don’t think people in VA realize that… if you want to build a family or have a life in Virginia or southern states, there’s a lot of recommendations for gay people not to even come down here,” said Gallop. He was warned about moving south while in Rabbinical school, but they are both so happy here it’s hard to see them someplace else.
“We fell into a very comfortable life here, and I don’t think thats a given in VA. We sought it out; we have friends and allies. We happen to be in a very blue district in a very blue part of the state, but that’s not something a majority of the state can take for granted,” said Goodman. And that’s why they are speaking out now. “I’m worried the same kind of gay couple in Western VA doesn’t have the same support.”
And while they speak for the couples who are unable to speak up for now, they are hoping to change the minds of those against their union as well.
Goodman remembered when he first told his grandmother he was planning on marrying Gallop. She mentioned having just seen a gay wedding in the movie Sex in the City 2. “for her, she had a very narrow stereotype for gay people… so for us, I think there’s something nice about saying we have a 9-5, we have to pay mortgage, we have to go to the supermarket…” said Goodman about why he hopes the couple’s willingness to speak out will help those who are underrepresented.
And Gallop echoed this sentiment. “It doesn’t matter the gender of the person your marrying, it matters the character you build in a love relationship.”
The future of same-sex marriage in VA will be decided on May 13th at Richmond’s Federal Appeals court, though the Supreme court is expected to weigh in as cases nationally work their way up.
“This year the Q-Summit is putting a more explicit focus on racial justice as it intersects with queer organizing in the south.”March 3, 2016
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