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The Swanson-Ballinger Family

Together 6 years

Our names are Javen Swanson and Oby Ballinger. Oby serves as pastor at Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul Park, and Javen is preparing for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We strongly urge you to oppose the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between one man and one woman.

We met as students at Yale Divinity School in Connecticut and discovered that we have much in common. Both of us grew up in rural Minnesota, attended church-affiliated colleges in our home state, and went to seminary with the full support of our families and faith communities.

On May 22, 2009, we were married in the Divinity School chapel. Surrounded by nearly 200 friends and family, in the presence of God, we made sacred vows to love and honor one another in sickness and in health, when times are good and when things get tough. We made a public promise of responsibility for each other and asked our loved ones to support us and hold us accountable. We married for the same reasons heterosexuals couples marry: To make a lifetime commitment to the one we love in the presence of our friends and family; to share the joys and sorrows that life brings; to be a family, and to be able to protect that family.

Following the wedding we returned to Minnesota, where our marriage is not recognized. Though our love remains and our promises endure, we are legal strangers in the eyes of the state. Each of us checks the “single” box on our state and federal tax forms. When we travel, we carry with us a folder of legal documents granting us permission to visit one another in the hospital in case of emergency. These are just two of the many indignities imposed upon faithful, loving same-sex couples whose marriages are not recognized by the state of Minnesota.

We want what any married couple wants: The opportunity to live into the promises we have made to one another, and the legal rights and protections that will allow our family to flourish. We may look different from other married couples, but we share similar values. We believe in the importance of family and serving our community. Like other couples, we worry about making ends meet and finding time for one another. We dream of one day raising children and we hope to grow old together.

Only marriage captures all that we are for one another. Civil unions and domestic partnerships do not convey the same historical, social and cultural significance. What defines marriage is love, commitment, and public accountability, not the gender of those who enter into it. Please oppose this constitutional amendment.


Javen Swanson and Oby Ballinger

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