'We Rearranged Our Wedding Because of the Fall of Roe v. Wade'

On my wedding day, I felt excited, happy and loved. But as my wife and I signed the marriage certificate at our venue in Texas, I also felt a sense of relief. Whatever happened in the future, I had done everything that I could to protect my family.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade has made me feel concerned about the future of LGBT rights in America. For this reason, my wife Carlie and I brought our wedding forward from May, 2023 to July, 2022.

I asked Carlie to marry me over Memorial Day weekend in May, 2022. We had talked about it for a long time and we had been together for five years.

I knew that Carlie was the person with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life. She's got a great sense of humor, a really good outlook, she's super smart and very kind. She's just the best.

But from a very practical, non-romantic perspective, I also wanted us to get married to secure our finances and inheritance for if, God forbid, anything happened to either of us. We wanted to have protections in place for our family. Carlie recently gave birth to our son, and it's infinitely easier for me to adopt him—which I have to do, as the law views me as a step-parent—if we are married.

Carlie Brown and Molly Pela
Molly Pela (right) with her wife Carlie. The pair had been together for 5 years when they got engaged.

Our original plan was to get married in May, 2023. Carlie was pregnant when I proposed and didn't want to be eight or nine months' pregnant in her wedding photos. Plus, we wanted time to find a venue and to figure out who we would invite.

We found a venue in downtown Houston called The Grove. The restaurant overlooks Discovery Green, which is where Carlie and I had our first date. We thought it would be a little serendipitous to get married near where we'd had our first date all those years ago.

We hadn't put down any deposits yet, but we had nearly settled on a date, and we planned to invite between 50 and 75 people.

And then Roe v. Wade was overturned, soon after our son was born. I didn't think that I would live to see a time where the right to abortion would be in jeopardy. This law had been in place my entire life. In comparison, same-sex marriage was only made legal throughout the States in 2015. It's relatively new so I believed it could be vulnerable.

Roe was the foundation for other decisions, particularly marriage equality. I fear that if you pull out the bottom, the building's going to fall.

I didn't love Judge Justice Thomas' comments, either, about reconsidering other decisions after Roe, including Obergefell v. Hodges, which was the basis for same-sex marriage.

As a lawyer, I understand that nothing happens quickly in the Supreme Court, that these cases would take years to go through the courts. But my concern was that Texas could try to enact something at a state or local level. The right-wing push here in Texas is all about, "Return families to Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." All that rhetoric.

Being able to get married was particularly important to me and Carlie, so I could be legally recognized as our son Hudson's mom. Only then can I take him to the doctor's, enroll him in school, or take him to daycare—all of the things that you do as a parent, that are important.

Carlie Brown and Molly Pela Baby
Molly Pela with her wife, Carlie Brown, and their baby son. Pela says that it is easier for her to adopt Hudson if she and Brown are married.

With the political spectrum being so polarized, Carlie and I didn't want our family to get caught in the crosshairs. We wanted to be in front of the issue.

We were sitting on the couch one day after the Roe verdict. I initially said, "What's the big deal if I wait to adopt Hudson after we have our wedding next fall?" But then we discussed it and realized we didn't know what next fall would look like. What would the fall of Roe mean for us? Nothing was guaranteed.

So we looked at dates in August, 2022, and thought we might be able to swing something pretty comparable to the wedding we had envisioned. But then August dates didn't work, so we looked later and later in the year, until finally we just decided: All right, we're going to have a small ceremony in two weeks' time, at the end of July.

We didn't have a lot of time to find a venue. We thought about renting a room in a restaurant, but because our son wasn't yet two months' old at the time, he hadn't had any of his vaccines so we were very cautious about taking him out in public.

We thought about outside venues, which was crazy to do in Texas in July as it's so hot. But that's how we found the park by the Rothko Chapel, which we chose as our venue.

When we told friends and family we were getting married, they were like, "Why in the hell are you getting married in two weeks?" But when we explained, they said they completely understood and that they'd be there to support us.

With it being such short notice, however, a lot of people were unable to make it, including Carlie's siblings and my brother. That was huge. It was a really important day and we would have liked to have shared it with more of our friends and extended family. They were disappointed they couldn't come, and we were disappointed too. However, we had known that that would be a potential consequence of moving our date forward.

We had about 15 guests in the end, and the only out-of-town guests were my mom, Carlie's mom, and my best friend from Dallas.

Molly Pela and Carlie Brown on Wedding

We got married on a Sunday night, as we thought more people would be able to make it, as opposed to a Friday or Saturday night, when people tend to have plans. It was low-key by design. After the ceremony, we had folks back over to our house for the reception. We had champagne and dessert, and one of Carlie's good friends made some delicious mini cheesecakes.

Most folks left by 9.30 or 10 p.m. It was a school night, after all, and everybody had to go to work the next day—myself included.

I certainly don't want to be ungrateful because I was very happy with our ceremony. But we would have liked to have had more people there to be a part of it. I feel a slight sense of injustice. I don't want to be a juvenile and be like, "It's not fair!" But, at the same time, I feel it's not fair that we felt we had to change our wedding plans in order to safeguard our future.

We're looking to have our wedding as planned in May next year, with just under 100 people at The Grove. We now distinguish between our "ceremony", which we had in July, and our "wedding," next year, to keep the two events separate in our own minds.

I have some worries about our upcoming wedding. Do I repeat my vows from the ceremony, or do I have to come up with something new? I am unsure whether I could say them again with the same sincerity, and there certainly wouldn't be the same surprise element as before, as Carlie and I have now heard the vows.

Even so, I'm glad that we got married in July, for the sense of security and stability that it affords. We've done all that we can do, and the last step will be finalizing the adoption for Hudson. Whatever happens in the future is going to happen, and we will take it as it comes.

Molly Pela, 43, lives in Texas with her wife, Carlie. Pela is a lawyer and Partner at Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Katie Russell.