On Sunday, April 12, Nathan Johnson and Jared Milrad were out near their home in Chicago, Illinois, doing some shopping for their wedding, which they’re looking forward to this summer after more than six years together as a couple.
While they were looking over stationary for their invitations, both of their phones started ringing and lighting up as texts, Facebook messages and phone calls tried to reach them.
The alerts were from friends and family members who had just watched Nathan and Jared in what’s already one of the most buzzed-about videos of the year: the launch video announcing that Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016.
Nathan and Jared raced out to the car, leaving their stationary selection for another day, and watched the video, a two-minute reflection on how people across the country are getting ready for big life moments.
“I’m getting married this summer to someone I really care about,” Jared says in a voiceover as he and Nathan walk their dog down the street in the video, holding hands.
It’s just a few seconds – but it’s a historic few seconds, the first same-sex couple talking about getting married featured in a major presidential candidate’s campaign ad. The inclusion is demonstrative of how far the country has come forward on the question of same-sex couples’ nuptials and how, truly, America is ready for the freedom to marry.
After watching the video, Nathan and Jared quickly called their parents.
“My mom’s first question was how she can see the video and watch it online, because she’s not the best at the Internet,” Jared joked in an interview with Freedom to Marry.
A few weeks before, they had been contacted by the Clinton campaign to shoot the footage and share their story, but they weren’t told exactly what it would be used for – so even to them, the video was a surprise.
Their parents’ support of the appearance, however, was not a surprise.
“I was raised mostly by my mother. She told me that I was gay before I even told her I was gay,” Jared said, laughing. “She sat me down after college, and she had accidentally read a journal entry I wrote when I was questioning my sexuality and wasn’t sure if I would marry a guy or a girl. She told me she supported me no matter what.”
Nathan told Freedom to Marry that his grandmother and mother are extremely supportive of him and Jared, and that the entire family is ready for the wedding this summer.
“The right to marry is very important to both of them,” Nathan explained. “My parents have been together for more than 30 years, and my grandparents have been together for 55 years. For me, it’s very important for it to be legally recognized. I come from this family who supports sustaining a relationship and sustaining a marriage, and it’s important for that marriage to be legally respected.”
Nathan hails from Michigan, where most of his family still lives. Michigan is one of thirteen states where same-sex couples continue to be denied the freedom to marry. It’s also one of the four states with a marriage ban directly under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, with a decision expected this summer.
“It’s incredibly disappointing,” Nathan said about Michigan’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. “I’m an incredibly proud Michigander. People there are generally hardworking Midwesterners who want to achieve the American dream, and Michigan’s policy is not representative of American values.”
Nathan said that he and Jared considered marrying in Michigan, but they knew that even if they planned their wedding there and said “I do,” they would have to go to another state to receive a marriage license – and all of the protections and responsibilities that marriage provides. “Hopefully the Supreme Court case will change all of that this summer,” Nathan said.
When Nathan and Jared look back on their lives together, they recall key moments. They remember when they met in 2008 in Boston, where the two were going to graduate school. They point to the rescue dog they found on the streets of Boston, “who brought us together to take care of him,” Jared said. They look back on getting engaged as the year became 2013 on New Year’s Day in New York City, right inside the Stonewall Inn, when Jared proposed to Nate and Nate responded, “You know the answer.”
And now, with the historic nature of the Hillary Clinton campaign ad under their belt, they’re getting ready to log another landmark moment – their wedding, which they hope is held just a few weeks after the United States Supreme Court affirms that any American nationwide, in any state, can marry the person they love.
And even though they were interrupted from their wedding planning trip on Sunday, the day the campaign launch video was released, they’re thankful that they have time to add a few extra guests to their wedding list.
“We added another person to our invite list this weekend,” Jared said. “We added Hillary Clinton.”