In September 2018, Lauren Davis Bariani and Kate Elizabeth Schatz met at the school playground. Their sons, who had just started kindergarten, soon became best friends and over the course of several playdates, the two women formed a close bond.
At the time, they were living in Alameda, California, a small island community near Oakland, with their husbands.
“When I met Kate, I knew she was going to change my life, but I didn’t know exactly how,” said Ms. Pariani, who works as a patient advocate for biotech company Genentech. “I remember thinking, ‘You’re not the only one like me.'”
Mrs. Paryani was going through some challenges in her marriage and the supportive friendship was a godsend. However, the texts relayed between her and Mrs. Schatz seemed more intimate than I imagined would be normal for a “mother’s friendship,” she said.
But for Ms. Schatz, 44, whose marriage has been solid, meeting Ms. Pariani, 43, also triggered complicated feelings. After a stable childhood in San Jose, California, she attended the University of California, Santa Cruz, graduating with dual BAs in Women’s Studies and Creative Writing before earning an MA in Literary Arts at Brown University.
A writer, activist, and public speaker, Ms. Schatz is the author of the Rad Women book series, and Do the Work: An Anti-Racist Activism Book, written with W. Kamau Bell. She said that before her marriage, she had had relationships with both men and women.
As their children played together after school and on weekends, the women’s connection deepened. In January 2019, they cycled to a friend’s birthday party and stopped at a local pub afterwards for a drink. Sitting closely, Mrs. Pariani bravely asked the question that lingered for both of them: “What is going on here?” She said.
“I’m married, but gay,” said Ms. Schatz, then confessed her strong feelings for Ms. Pariani. Ms. Pariani’s response was straightforward: “Me too,” she said.
The admission prompted Mrs. Schatz to share the news with her husband and soon after the couple opened up about their relationship. “At the time, I couldn’t imagine getting divorced,” said Ms. Schatz, whose parents have been married for nearly 50 years.
Ms. Pariani, who grew up in a devoutly Christian home in Dallas with divorced parents in her 20s, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in art history before moving to California in 2005.
As their relationship escalated into full-fledged love, each woman struggled with the severity of the situation. In January 2020, after Ms. Pariani divorced her husband, Ms. Schatz finally confessed to herself, and soon confessed to her husband and two children that her heart and future was exclusively with Ms. Pariani.
Over the next few years, the couple weathered the epidemic along with many changes, including grief after the dissolution of their marriage; building and blending their new family; and the prolonged illness and death of Mrs. Paryani’s mother. There were doubts, they said, but through the challenges the path became clear.
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“Kate has an incredible mind full of facts,” said Ms. Pariani. “It gave me so much strength and made me better and bolder.”
“Lauren is smart, sexy, thoughtful and fiercely protective,” said Ms. Schatz. “With her, I feel completely visible.”
In January 2022, Ms. Schatz made the first step towards marriage, with one of several proposals. On the couple’s trip to Joshua Tree National Park, Mrs. Schatz produced a ring with five blue sapphires representing the family unit of the ecstatic Mrs. Pariani.
Weeks later, Mrs. Pariani organizes an elaborate scavenger hunt using a bicycle for Mrs. Schatz. The last stop was in the yard of the primary school where they met, where Mrs. Paryani waited with a diamond ring and their children. Still another suggestion came from kids who, with help, created a family proposal by wearing T-shirts that read “She Said Yes, So She Did.”
On June 22, the couple wed at the Boon Hotel + Spa in Guerneville, Calif. Julia Meyer, a friend of the couple’s and Global Life Minister, held in front of 100 guests.
Accompanied by their children, the women, surrounded by redwood trees, stood in front of an inverted triangle covered in bright flowers, exchanging personal, sometimes political vows in which they invoked the long struggle for same-sex marriage and current challenges to LGBT rights. . And an empty chair stood, covered with marigolds, in honor of Mrs. Paryani’s mother.
During the ceremony, the guests verbally agreed to support marriage and “protect same-sex marriages.” Afterwards, the revelers danced until the community curfew stopped the music, but then spontaneously broke into a single of “(It’s Been) the Time of My Life.”
“I always wanted to be a lesbian when I grew up,” Ms. Schatz said, laughing. “But it took me a while to get there.”