American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

A Family of Seven: Shannan & Monica’s Love Story

AFER’s Love Stories series tells the stories of couples who are waiting to get married. If you are a gay and lesbian couple who is planning to get married, tell us your story and you could be featured.

After only 10 months together, Shannan Seiter and Monica Butler of Medford, Oregon, were forced to make a decision that would change their lives forever.

In April 2004 the couple found out Monica’s nephew would be put up for adoption. They called the Oregon Department of Children’s Services, which runs the state’s foster care system. They wanted to be an adoptive resource. Ryan, who is autistic and bipolar, came home with them when he was only 18 months old.

Two years later, the state called again. They wanted to know if the couple would take in two children to foster, not anticipating that it would become permanent.  Again, the couple did not hesitate.

“I’ve have a great relationship with my family. There was never a doubt in my mind that these kids should be with their family that loves them.” Monica says.

Seeing that Monica and Shannan thought their niece and nephew would be returned to their biological mom, they decided to have a baby.  A year after fostering the two kids, they found out they were pregnant.  Six months later the state again called and told them that the third sibling of the two would need to be placed with them. See, the case was going to a level of permanence and they wanted to keep the siblings together. They then decided to open their home and adopt the three kids. The couple never anticipated having five children, let alone at the same time! But this pair would not have it any other way.

True Love Found

In 2003, Shannan and Monica were introduced to each other through a mutual friend who served as matchmaker. “I feel like I fell in love with Monica right when we met. I felt like I truly, actually loved her,” Shannan says. Today, Shannan stays at home with the kids while Monica works for her family business as the only female auto-glass installer in southern Oregon.

After a nearly decade-long relationship, Monica and Shannan are still entirely smitten with each other. “If it were not for Shannan,” Monica says, “I would not be in the wonderful place that I am. She is so beautiful; I am so lucky!” Shannan follows, “Monica gave me my sense of humor, and she is so patient with the kids. I love her.”

More than Marriage

For Shannan and Monica marriage is about so much more than spending their lives together.

Being legally married will help the family of seven tremendously. “I have not completely adopted all of the children. All of the things that I have to go through with Ryan’s health issues will improve. I am not his [legal] guardian but I take care of him just as much, and that’s a big issue,” Shannan explains.

“Not all of our legal documents are truly combined and it makes things difficult,” Monica adds.

But for the couple, being married is also about instilling a sense of love and family in their children.  Shannan explains, “It’s really important for our kids to understand what a marriage looks like… Marriage is one thing I have always told my children is the next step once you’re in a solid, committed relationship.”

The couple has a ceremony planned for 2013 with the kids as the wedding party. But, they are still waiting for the day they will be able to be legally married.

“I will get to call you my wife!” Monica proclaims excitedly to Shannan.