On a Sunday night we gather for a cookout with a few neighbors. We each bring something to the table: grilled chicken, potato salad, broccoli, lemon gimlets.
It's like any other cookout. We talk neighborhood, work, dogs, music. There are four couples. We're from all over the map, and our ages range from our 20s to our 40s, but the biggest difference among us is one we do not talk about that night: Two of the couples do not have the right to get married.
Despite their love for each other, despite their commitment and despite this week's Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage, in Kansas, Missouri and most of the country, same-sex marriage is not recognized. In fact, it's blatantly banned.
But the court ruling against both California's Prop 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act gives me hope that change is coming, that it won't be long before my friends and neighbors share the same basic human rights I have.
If only the naysayers could overcome their prejudice. If only they could get to know these loving couples and families.
They're worried about the children, they say. Chad Oliver says that's nonsense. The Kansas City firefighter and his wife have been married four years. And he has two moms.
"I don't look at the way I was brought up as any different from being raised by a mom and a dad," says Chad, 29. "I have two parents that love me, support me and care for me. Be it a man and man, a woman and woman or a man and woman, love is what matters.
"I really think that years down the road, our grandchildren will look back and say, 'Good grief, people were crazy,' the way we look back at our parents and grandparents in disbelief that white people and black people once had to go to different bathrooms. That was crazy."
Opponents think homosexuals can simply turn off the gay. Not true, says Angela Lupton.
"I think there is a lot of fear from people who believe we will indoctrinate America into becoming gay," says Angela, 32, who married her wife, Mac McSpadden, in Canada seven years ago. "But they do not understand that being gay is not a choice. It's who you are."
The couple may have a legal certificate, but they live in Kansas City, where their marriage is not recognized. A heterosexual couple can go get married in Mexico, come back home as husband and wife and receive all the benefits of a legal marriage. Angela and Mac cannot.
For her, everything is harder. Her employer only recently extended its health insurance policy to cover domestic partnership. Two years ago, her wife gave birth to twins via a sperm donor. If Angela had been married to a man and used a sperm donor, her husband's name would have been listed on the birth certificate. Instead, Angela and her wife had to go through a costly second-parent adoption, complete with a home study.
Opponents say same-sex unions damage the institution of marriage. They're immoral and sinful, they cry.
No, TV shows like "The Bachelor" and "Bridezillas" are a danger to the institution of marriage. So are self-righteous cheating politicians and quickie divorces. Two people who love each other are not a threat.
"People are starting to identify with the struggle," says Jamie Rich, director of the Kansas City LGBT Film Festival and a longtime activist. "They see real situations like Edith Windsor (the plaintiff in the DOMA case) and her spouse. Gay marriage has a face. It's not abhorrent. It's not Jerry Springer-esque. It's your favorite teacher. It's a friend. People are starting to identify and understand that though the definition of marriage is broadening, the core values of marriage - love and commitment - it's the same."
We have a long way to go, both in changing discriminatory state laws and discriminatory personal beliefs. But the Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage are still worth celebrating.
"This is a very important moment in history," says Jamie, 54. "It is a tipping point. There is a lot of work still to be done, a lot of entanglements state by state, but this moment is tremendous. It says we are here and the time is now. There is no turning back."