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My Sister is Gay and Getting (Legally) Married

It was a perfect day in Southern California. The sun was shining and the breeze was blowing softly through the papel picado banners strung along the patio. My sister was getting married and—after years of heartache—all of our family was there.

The wedding was beautiful, but in the eyes of the law, they weren't really married in the state of California. They spent weeks filling out paperwork in order to legally construct protections that gave them a fraction of what straight couples are automatically given under the law. All of that changed Wednesday when the Supreme Court paved the way for gay marriage to become legal in California, and on Friday, California Gov. Jerry Brown's office issued an order to allow same-sex marriages to resume.

On Wednesday when the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, my tough-as-nails sister cried when she heard the decision. Her long and sometimes painful journey started in Tucson when she was just 15.

There was never any doubt in her mind that she was gay. She was outed to my parents by a friend while in high school in 1977. We come from a traditional Catholic, Mexican-American family and it did not go over well. Our parents sent her to a priest who told her that she had to change and stop disgracing her family—or the fiery gates of hell awaited. The idea planted by the priest that she was a lesser person stayed with her for years to come.

She left home at 18 and put herself through college by working nights at a donut shop. It took years for my parents to come around, but they eventually accepted her. My sister went on to law school and is now a successful attorney. She is also a mom, raising a wonderful daughter. All the while, she has worked hard to give back to her community and has helped raised money for law school scholarships for Latinos, and to raise funds for public schools.

"I've spent my entire life doing what I can to help other people," she told me. Part of that was to prove to the world that she was not a disgrace and there was nothing wrong with her.

The Supreme Court not only made it so that she and her partner can get the same benefits as other married people, but for her, she said, it "legitimizes who I am." The court determined that gay people are equal under the law. It meant that she was finally whole.

This is hugely significant not just for her and her wife, but for her 13-year-old daughter, too. In the Supreme Court decision striking down DoMA, Justice Kennedy wrote about how the act "humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and their daily lives."

My sister tried to explain to me the complexities of the decision and why it was so important to her. Why she felt that she was finally accepted. This breaks my heart because to me, she's the bravest, smartest, funniest woman I've ever known and she's my hero. I know that her wife feels the same way and I'm thrilled to say that now that they can, they'll be legally married. And I'll be there cheering them on.

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