American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

Protecting Each Other: Sue and Melissa’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.

Sue Famiglietti and Melissa Mueller find marriage to be the missing link to their love story.  The Florida couple has been together for 16 years and it’s obvious by the way they describe each other that they

“Melissa is very kind and good hearted. She steers the whole family in the right direction. She works hard, and she’s a great mom,” boasts Sue, an executive chef at a country club in Ft. Myers, Florida.

“Sue is kind and very patient. She is infallible and loving and patient and generous,” says Melissa, who works for a psychiatrist in the area.

Pride & Joy

All parents consider their children to be their pride and joy. For Sue and Melissa, their daughter Madison is that and a lot more.  A precocious thirteen-year-old, Madison continually impresses her moms through a selfless commitment to volunteerism and philanthropy.  While most kids her age spend their free time obsessing over the latest teen fad, Madison donates much of her free time fundraising for several causes, such as rescuing animals in danger.

“She stands up for the underdog. She is bright, kind, and a defender of those less fortunate,” say the proud mothers.

Trials & Tribulations

Although the family loves living in Florida, it hasn’t always been easy. Up until 2010, it was illegal in the state for gay and lesbian couples to adopt children – meaning Sue and Melissa were raising Madison without Sue having any legal parental rights.

When adoption finally became legal, the couple began the stepparent adoption process within Florida’s Circuit Court. “The adoption was the biggest challenge we have ever had. The judge said he could not do a stepparent adoption on [any couple] that isn’t married. We are being discriminated against because we are not married – yet we can’t get married,” says a frustrated Melissa.

The couple had no other choice than to go through the second-parent adoption process, which is much more lengthy and expensive. After 20 months of filing documents and anxious anticipation, the adoption was finalized – a huge relief for Melissa and Sue, and especially Madison.

“[Madison] would like for us to be married. The adoption was relieving for her. She was worried about going into foster care,” Sue says to describe the direct effect of them not being married on their daughter. The adoption process put the family through a rollercoaster of emotions, ad inflicted on Madison unnecessary fears that no teenager should ever have to face.

California Matters

Sue and Melissa are hoping that the entire nation will soon have marriage equality, and they have high hopes that the ultimate defeat of California’s Proposition 8 will help make that a reality.  California “is the example for the rest of the country,” they note.  “It sets the tone for everyone else. It literally changes everything.”

“We have worked on us for a long time. We honor a commitment that we made to one another. We want to get married!”