Cindy Meneghin and Maureen Kilian will finally say two words to each other Saturday they’ve been fighting years to utter: I do.
Meneghin and Kilian have fought years for the right to enter into a legally binding marriage in the Garden State. When they stand before 250 friends and relatives at their wedding ceremony at Montclair State University this Saturday, their dream will come true.
“When we get married on Saturday, I’m going to have a very strong sense of relief because the protections will be there for my family,” Meneghin said. “But, I’ll never feel like it’s over until every gay and lesbian couple has the right to marry.”
The couple was at the heart of the fight for same-sex couples to marry in New Jersey.
Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobsen ruled that any official empowered to perform marriages within the state must do so for any same-sex couple. The ruling went into effect Monday at midnight. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that same-sex couples can receive the rights and benefits heterosexual couples were granted through marriages, but left it up to the state Legislature to determine what it should be called. The Legislature decided to call the term civil union.
Meneghin and Kilian have been together for 39 years. They officially became a couple on Aug. 28, 1974. They met at DePaul Catholic High School, their alma mater. Knowledge of their relationship was met with a significant amount of homophobia. A few other students started a rumor and it spread. The couple was threatened with beatings and rape. Their families supported them at a time when so many other families were throwing their gay and lesbian children out of their homes.
“Our family was paramount to us,” Meneghin said. “We wanted them to understand what we were experiencing and they, and our friends, stood by us.”
Changing people's opinion of what Meneghin and Kilian are was an important part of the battle.
"We want to protect our family as much as anyone else," Meneghin said. "People started to see us as people and not as gay people. Now they're saying we're getting married, we're not getting gay married."
Governor Chris Christie attempted to put performing the marriages on hold while the decision was appealed but he withdrew the state’s appeal Monday morning.
“We’re just like everyone else, we want to settle down. We’re your sons, your daughters. We want the same rights as everyone,” Kilian said. “We do want the same rights when to comes to families.”