Andrew Campbell virtually handed up the possibility to be married without cost on Feb. 12 in Atlanta.
“I’m from the South, and my mom has always been all about decorum,” he mentioned. He noticed a flier promoting free weddings, posted on the Fulton County Courthouse the place he and his fiancé, Alejandro Arriaga Ariza, went to choose up their marriage license the week earlier than. He thought the free wedding ceremony carried out by Judge Kenya M. Johnson could be a mass ceremony, every week later. “I didn’t want to get married with a bunch of other people. My mom wouldn’t have found that very classy.”
Mr. Campbell then realized he had misunderstood and that Judge Johnson was filling personal appointments all day. He secured a day slot for himself and Mr. Ariza. With it got here a way of reduction. For almost two years, they’d been struggling to construct a life collectively in opposition to a backdrop of worldwide journey restrictions that escalated with the onset of the coronavirus.
Mr. Campbell, 53, and Mr. Ariza, 40, met by means of a relationship web site in January 2019. Mr. Ariza lived in his native Colombia, the place he works as a images professor at Salazar and Herrera University Institution in Medellin. Mr. Campbell, a media account director for the promoting agency ICON International, lived in Atlanta. They not too long ago moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“I hadn’t ever dated anyone outside the country, but Alejandro came across as very genuine and very cute, and I just felt like he was a really good person,” Mr. Campbell mentioned. That April, he flew to Colombia. He got here dwelling feeling as if he had made an excellent buddy. But when he returned on the Fourth of July, it was with a wedding proposal. “It wasn’t as though it came out of left field. We had already started talking about it.,” Mr. Campbell mentioned.
The reply was sure. “I felt fully committed to him,” Mr. Ariza mentioned. “He cares about me like no one else.”
They had solely gotten collectively as soon as within the United States, in February 2020, when Covid difficult their relationship. “Colombia shut all their flights down,” Mr. Campbell mentioned. They weren’t capable of see one another once more till November, when Mr. Ariza lastly secured a flight to Atlanta. This time, he stayed for good. Their determination to marry in February was rooted in romance — Valentine’s Day 2019 is the day they determined to change into unique. “We consider it our anniversary,” Mr. Ariza mentioned.
Feb. 12, the day Judge Johnson was performing ceremonies, was shut sufficient, particularly since they’d a finances to think about. “We wanted to do something that didn’t cost a lot of money, because we’ve already had to hire an immigration attorney,” Mr. Campbell mentioned. The absence of their households for the five-minute elopement, attended by only one buddy, Keri Norman, introduced combined emotions.
“When you’re raised in Colombia, where there is a macho culture, it’s not really easy to be gay,” Mr. Ariza mentioned. But his mom had given them written blessings. “She doesn’t speak English, so I translated what she wrote to Andy, which was, ‘If you love my son, I’m going to love you.’”
For Mr. Campbell, acceptance remains to be a balancing act. He comes from what he referred to as a protracted line of Southern Baptist ministers. “So it’s hard for my parents to justify gay marriage with their religious beliefs,” he mentioned. Less tough is his determination to maintain up the decorum they instilled.
“My parents are wonderful people, who gave me an amazing childhood, but they’re from a different generation,” he mentioned. “I know they’re going to love Alejandro eventually. It’s just going to take time.”