Every couple has a special place - the place where they met, or the place where they first said "I love you," or the place where they shared the perfect day.
For Jessica Chipoco and Lindsey Dawson, that place is a hiking trail by the Potomac River in Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. It's where they spent their third date, hiking along the river, admiring beautiful waterfalls, and realizing that they have a mutual appreciation for the outdoors. It's where they went to celebrate Jessica's birthday last year, scrambling up and down the river's boulders with their friends. It's where they got engaged to each other on New Year's Day 2012. And it's nearby where they'll get married on March 30, 2013, when they'll stand in front of their friends and family members and pledge their commitment to each other.
Lindsey and Jessica met online in March 2011 while living in Washington, D.C. Lindsey had recently moved to the city for an internship, and soon after she moved, she began online dating in hopes of exploring the city while meeting new people.
"You get those alerts when you do online dating, and Lindsey popped up and I was like, 'Oh, she's cute!,'" said Jessica, who works as an attorney in Rockville, MD. "So I wrote to her, and she wrote back to me, and pretty much we've been hanging out ever since...and we'll be hanging out forever now."
Their relationship began tentatively - Lindsey's internship had an end date, so both women approached the relationship with caution, fearful of becoming too invested if Lindsey were to leave D.C. But the length of her internship got extended again and again and again, and before Lindsey and Jessica knew it, they were in invested, in love, and committed to staying together. Lindsey landed a job in D.C. doing HIV policy work, and the couple moved in together in September 2011.
Toward the end of that year, they began talking about marriage.
Both women care deeply about their families; Jessica is the youngest of four siblings, and she has seven nieces and nephews, and Lindsey is very close to her parents, aunts, and uncles. It was important to both of them to share their relationship with their family before getting engaged.
Their families adamantly supported their decision to marry. The relationship moved quickly, both families realized, but Lindsey and Jessica were in love, and they were ready to make a lifetime commitment to each other.
With their families' blessings, Lindsey and Jessica planned to get engaged on New Year's Day on the Potomac hiking trail - "their place."
"We decided that we would bring champagne and have some snacks and sort of have this day of getting engaged to each other," Lindsey said. "But the evening before, on New Year's Eve, Jessica made me dinner, and we had just finished eating and were enjoying champagne, and Jessica asked me then. And I said yes."
At the end of January, Lindsey and Jessica bought a house together in Silver Spring, Maryland. When the Maryland state legislature passed the freedom to marry in March and Governor Martin O'Malley signed it into law, Lindsey and Jessica were excited at the prospect of tying the knot in Maryland, the place they were beginning to make their home.
Despite their excitement, the women knew that the law would face a referendum in November. On November 6, Marylanders will be asked to vote FOR Question 6 to uphold the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in the state. Three other states - Maine, Minnesota, and Washington - also face marriage-related ballot initiatives, which you can read about here.
Lindsey and Jessica already have their wedding plans decided for March 2013 - they'll marry just a quick walk away from their hiking trail, at an outdoor retreat location in the woods in Maryland. But they want their perfect ceremony in Maryland by their special place to be their only ceremony - that is, they don't want to drive to Washington, D.C., where same-sex couples have had the freedom to marry since 2010, just to file paperwork demonstrating their love and commitment.
"I don't want our wedding to come and then have to truck over the D.C. border so that I can legally marry Jessica," Lindsey said. "It's going to be an incredible day, and I am so excited about it, but I don't want to have it be qualified by having to do something - cross the border - because my rights were not upheld by my state."
The couple understands that marriage matters to same-sex couples - that all committed couples should have the freedom to marry each other where they live and have their relationships respected by their community. They hope that on Election Day, Marylanders from across the state will cast votes for fairness and stand up for all loving couples and their families.
"Now that we've come to Maryland and started to make a home here, we want that place to be an open-minded state," Jessica said, imagining her future with Lindsey. "This is where we've bought a home, and we hope to have children here. It would be really validating to live in a state where the people said, 'Yeah - this is how it should be. This is what's right.'"
This story is cross-posted at Freedom to Marry.