A Conversation with Diana Travis and MaryAnn Mueller
Diana Travis and MaryAnn Mueller met 25 years ago at a friend's birthday party and have been together for the last nearly 23 years. They share their lives together now on seven acres of land in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Diana and MaryAnn's relationship grew out of their close friendship. Diana explained: “We were friends first. We started doing lots of things together – walking through the woods, bird watching, and learning how to make kindling out of cedar woods for the fireplace. Through being friends, in that process of how any friendship develops, we discovered we had a similar appreciation of life – a shared sense of humor, love of nature and gardening, and deep loyalty to friends and family. These things are extremely important to us.” Today, not only are they a loving, committed couple, but they run a small business together.
Honesty and mutual, loving support are the two qualities that Diana and MaryAnn credit most for sustaining their relationship for so many years. MaryAnn said: “We’ve learned that we can rely on one another and be honest with each other even when it’s difficult to do so, because we always know that the other is not going away. Diana recently broke her leg in multiple places, and this experience has been challenging for both of us because Diana is dependent on me for a lot of things now. Even though I’m a retired physical therapist, it’s really hard because it’s day in and day out. But we talk about that, too, and work it out together.”
Diana explained: “When you’ve been together as long as we have – and you’ve lost parents, siblings, and friends – it’s so wonderful to have someone you can rely on. You can not only watch the sunrise together and appreciate that beautiful sky, but you can have someone to hold you when you’ve just lost your brother or parent. Our relationship together is a rich tapestry of all kinds of experience: friends, growth, changes, loss, and appreciation about how fragile life can be and how lucky we are to be together. This type of reliance, honesty, and shared experience is what makes a marriage. Marriage means the commitment to stick with things through thick and thin. It’s a lifetime commitment. We share everything, both the good and the bad. We enjoy life, reflect on life, and are present for life – together. We want to honor our relationship by being married.”
But the State of North Carolina, where Diana was born and raised and has lived for 65 years, denies them the freedom to marry. North Carolina voters last year passed Amendment One, a state constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex couples from marrying or having any other legal recognition for their relationships. Diana and MaryAnn did everything they could to defeat Amendment One, and when it passed Diana described that “we were heartbroken. We didn’t want to get out of bed the next morning ….” She continued: “MaryAnn and I contribute as much or more to our community as anyone else. We are small business owners who pay a huge amount of taxes to our city and state. We volunteer in our community, we contribute to the organizations that seek to conserve our beautiful state, and we support our friends and neighbors regardless of their sexual orientation. No one has ever sent our taxes or donations back because they came from lesbians. Yet we are denied our basic right as human beings to be married simply because we are gay. This is very upsetting to us.”
Although Diana and MaryAnn take pride that Mecklenburg County (their home county) voted against Amendment One, they see very little possibility that North Carolina voters will reverse the measureand create the freedom to marry in their state. Accordingly, Diana and MaryAnn look “to the Supreme Court to ensure us our civil rights.” Diana concluded: “We want to be able to be married in North Carolina. This is our home. We have not gotten married in another state, because this is where we live. We want recognition and validity here, as well as federally.”