Michael Aaron

Who Wants a Free Wedding?

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You should have seen and heard the reaction at a staff meeting when I brought up the idea of giving away a free same-sex wedding. There was a gasp, an ooh, an ahh and some raised eyebrows. We all loved the idea and vowed to do what it took to make it happen.

Now, months later and having received many, many entries, came the task of choosing a winner. The stories we read were touching, heart-wrenching, funny … well, they ran the gamut. We narrowed down to three fairly quickly and then two. We went back and forth, wishing we could give away a second wedding. But, the story of the love affair and challenges faced by Jessica Engel and Amanda Brown ended up winning our hearts and a decision was made.

Four minutes later, Jessica called our offices wondering if we’d made a decision.

“Shut up!” she said when we told her that just moments before we’d chosen them. “I must be psychic!”

Many businesses and people are coming together to make this happen for Jessica and Amanda. We will be highlighting each of them in these pages and chronicling the journey to their big day.
I hope this turns out to be one of the things we look back at with a great sense of pride.

Read their story at the right and tell me if you think we made the right decision.

QSaltLake Editor-

A few years ago, I met a girl who changed my life. From the minute I first saw her, she inspired me. I had signed up with a marathon training team and she (Amanda) was a team captain. She was so excited to share her own running experiences. She was a beacon of hope and full of ideas for our whole team as we raised thousands of dollars. She was by my side as I ran the Salt Lake Marathon. It was an experience I will always remember with a smile.

As we fell in love, we were optimistic about our future together and thought nothing could get us down. We planned for our future. We wanted a commitment ceremony.

Things went downhill quickly after Amanda was on the front page of the The Salt Lake Tribune for World AIDS Day 2008. Amanda was not only an activist for cancer, she was an activist for HIV/AIDS. It was our hope to educate the public and put another “face” on HIV/AIDS.

Amanda was raped while serving in the Army (basic training) and contracted the disease. She said she could let the incident ruin her life or she could take a stand and help on the side of prevention. She decided (the day she tested positive) to do something about it. This did not come without discrimination, as people with HIV/AIDS live with a horrible stigma.

I was fired from my job one week after the article’s publication for my gay lifestyle with her. Financially, things changed and with it went our dreams of a ceremony.

As our relationship progressed, she took on the responsibilities of my four kids (and a pregnant teenager) with eagerness. The kids all love her and look up to her. She has gotten involved in all of the sports, chores, homework and discipline needed to make our family run smoothly. She spends all of her extra time and effort with the kids, teaching them about making their own choices to make a positive impact on the world.

I can’t imagine what life would have been like without her. She has changed me. She has changed my children. She has and will continue to change the world for the better. She is my inspiration. There could be nothing better in this life then to share in a commitment ceremony in front of all our friends and family.

Please help in making our dream come true.

—Jess

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