SALISBURY, N.C. — Tamara Sheffield and Maryja Mee took a train headed north on May 3 to wed on May 4 in New York, N.Y.
Though this does not seem out of the ordinary in today’s world, the couple was one of five to win $5,000 from the American Civil Liberties Union in their Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding contest. In fact, they beat out 396 other entrants to net the win. Participants were gleaned from states that banned same-sex marriage.
Before leaving for the train, the ACLU threw them a sendoff party.
Sheffield and Mee have been together for 24 years, having met in college. Sheffield works for Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo and Mee works at Delhaize America headquarters.
The couple got a late start on entering the contest. A friend of theirs told them about it and expressed that she could not think of a better couple to represent marriage equality. After perusing the requirements, they jumped in and created their story, then submitted their entry on Jan. 18, so close to the Feb. 16 end date.
“When we entered, so many couples had thousand of votes and we thought we didn’t have a chance,” Sheffield shared. “Before Valentine’s Day, we were one of the top vote getters (thanks to all of our friends, family, Salisburians and our personal ‘campaign managers’ of social media). We received a call we were one of the final couples and then the contest was extended to March 16. By the time it was all said and done we were the top vote with over 22,000 votes and out of 400+ couples, we were one of the winners.” An online video explains more about the couple’s experience with the contest and their lives.
In April they were able to meet the other four couples who netted wins on a trip to New York prior to their “big” day.
One thing on their wish list was to have Stevie Nicks officiate the wedding, but that dream never materialized.
“All that matters is we are legally married after building a life together for 24 years. No words can explain how great it feels to be recognized as a couple regardless of [what North Carolina’s laws say],” she added.
Both of the women are actively involved in the community. They are founding members of Salisbury Pride, as well as active at work with their companies’ business resources groups. They have also been involved in bully prevention rallies and local college gay-straight alliance groups.
The ACLU is holding another contest where they will award five people an all-expense paid trip for two and a wedding reception in New York on May 19 at 54 Below, a Manhattan hotspot located at 254 W. 54th St. Those who fill out the online form help to send a message to lawmakers in the winners’ home states calling for marriage equality. Visit the website to apply.
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