KarMel Scholarship 2008


Honorable Mention: Best Gay Marriage

“The Wedding Picture”

By Yamuna Menon - CT



Desciption of Submission: “Personal story of my family’s struggle with marriage equality as well as my own struggles as a motivating factor in my decision to attend law school.” - Yamuna


Why Karen and Melody Liked It:  We loved how she reminded us that our struggle is not unique.  There are many who came before us who can still remember how it felt to be treated differently for something they could not control.  Maybe we can help keep history from repeating itself!





                        Wedding pictures are some of the most important keepsakes in a family’s album.  In my parents’ wedding reception photos they are surrounded by their brothers, sisters, and childhood friends. But when my mother and father look through those pictures, the absence of certain guests is much more poignant and noticeable than the presence of those who were there to celebrate their happiness; neither set of my grandparents attended.

My grandparents disapproved of the marriage because my parents were not doing what was considered socially appropriate – both my mother and father were subject to India’s societal caste system and they were not caste equals.  When I try to explain to friends why my grandparents were infuriated by this love-based marriage, I compare my parents’ 1974 wedding to the 1969 United States Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia.  From a social perspective, my parents’ inter-caste marriage in India was considered as distasteful as the American interracial marriage at issue in the Loving case. Much like the couple in Loving, my parents knew the social consequences of their actions but nonetheless chose to do what was best for them. Their choice meant, among other things, that my grandparents would not attend their wedding or reception.

Those wedding photos flashed through my mind this past spring as I anxiously sat in on the Connecticut State Legislature Judiciary Committee hearing on H.B. 7395, “An Act Concerning Marriage Equality.”  As the Community Organizer for Love Makes a Family [a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting marriage equality and legal benefits for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (“GLBT”) community], all of the grassroots organizing I had done in the state legislature and constituency had come to this one moment.  As the Judiciary Committee was voting on the bill to allow same-sex couples to marry, I remembered my parents’ wedding photograph and how difficult it had been for them to marry.  Everything in me wanted to do all that I could to work against the social inequities within the institution of marriage regardless of who was being harmed.  For me, it was clear that the present campaign for marriage equality was no different from my parents’ own fight against the caste system in India, which was no different from the dispute in Loving. 

All of my work leading up to that vote proved fruitful.  I had spent the entire winter and spring organizing over twenty legislative house meetings between constituents, state representatives and state senators where constituents explained the importance of marriage equality in their own lives. The meetings greatly impacted the legislators’ votes in Judiciary Committee. Further, the entire marriage equality movement in the United States was waiting to see if Connecticut would become the second state to win an affirmative vote on the bill in the legislature.

As the roll call came in, I frantically wrote down the results.  With tremendous pride, I could not believe my eyes as I reviewed the tally: “yea” 27, “nay” 15.  The Connecticut State Legislature Judiciary Committee passed H.B. 7395 by a solid margin[1].

Around that same time I had another moment to reflect on this fight – the same fight fought by my parents and the couple in Loving.  The Connecticut Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the marriage equality case of Kerrigan & Mock v. CT Department of Public Health.   I was there for the argument and watched the plaintiffs’ attorney Ben Klein argue that the denial of marriage equality fails to provide Connecticut citizens with equal treatment. As I listened to his eloquent constitutional references, my thoughts were mixed.  I was angry that this battle was still being waged, but glad that I live in a time and place where I can openly fight against such injustices and inequality.

As for the current state of my parents’ plight, today in India the caste system has been banned per the Indian Constitution.  Although the caste system still unofficially exists, many people are straying from it.  As for interracial couples, there are still parts of the United States where interracial marriages are discouraged, but interracial marriage is no longer illegal.  In regards to the GLBT community, Massachusetts is the only state to provide marriage equality, but many states are awarding various levels of rights and protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

A legal education will allow me to be a more effective component of this campaign in the state.  The movement is very active in Connecticut and my previous organizing and legislative work will be a particularly useful asset in making more headway; I am very drawn to such potential. As I have explained elsewhere in this application package, I have withstood many personal and financial obstacles on my way to law school. I have a voice, the ability to reason with a blend of passion and respect, and I know that I can make a great contribution both in the classroom and, later, in my career.

I cannot change all of society’s views or the law overnight, but I can be a part of the steps towards such change, just as my parents and the Lovings have been.

One wedding picture at a time.







[1] Although history was made that day, the bill did not progress further.