Sinjoyla Townsend and Angelisa Young were the first couple to be married in the nation's capital in 2010 when Washington, DC changed its statutes regarding same sex couples. They met in 1997 in a Constitutional Law class and grew closer while working on class projects together.
Having already had a commitment ceremony, the day of the marriage for this down to earth couple was intended to be a low-key jeans and T-shirts day. But the media frenzy over the first couple's nuptials crushed those plans and threw Sinjoyla and Angelisa into the spotlight. Through it all, cameras and microphones thrust in their faces, Sinjoyla relates that the words she repeated over and over that day were "All I want to do is marry Angel." And marry her she did. Still uncomfortable with their instant celebrity, they respect the place they hold for their LGBT brothers and sisters as the first couple to break the barriers.
Angel, as she is often called, still bristles at the term "same sex" marriage. A traditionalist at heart, with great respect for the institution of marriage, she prefers to think of it as just "human beings" getting married.
"I just want the same rights that my brothers and sisters have. I don't want anything extra so you don't have to put 'same sex' in front of it. No extra words. No extra anything. I just want to be able to live in a union that has been sanctioned by law." Sinjoyla adds, "I think of myself as a regular human being. There's no politicizing with human rights."
Like many other couples, these women cite communication as one of the keys to longevity. They acknowledge the vulnerability that comes with being open in a relationship and willingness to grow with a person and embrace who they are, as opposed to trying to change them. Putting the hard stuff on the table and talking about it may bring some discomfort but it will also bring growth. Sinjoyla, who is fascinated by the energy of the universe and the Chinese belief in feng shui, laughs that Angel leaves the lid to the toilet seat up when finished in the bathroom and it drives her crazy, believing that the chi of water which represents wealth will be flushed from the house through the bowl if the lid is not closed. But she has resolved finally to just put the lid down herself and "work with it."
Equally important in any relationship are trust and respect, trust that your partner will always have your best interest at heart and respect not only for each other but for all human beings.
They came together at the end of a failed marriage for Angelisa, and Sinjoyla then became stepparent to two teenage children. Weathering the storm of that situation again was a result of patience and respect for the children learning to adjust to both a stepmother and now a mother who was a lesbian. The friendship that Sinjoyla now has with the children runs deep and Angel quips, "They call her for money just like they call me."
Says Angel, "I love Sinjoyla with all my heart. And I wish that people could feel what I feel. I just think the world would be such a perfect place if everybody could feel the love and the comfort and the support that I feel from Sinjoyla."