Volunteer Firefighter Sounds Off on His Daughter’s Marriage

Donald Kish • Texas

This story was originally published in December 2014. Donald and Sue’s daughter, Samantha, shared her story with Freedom to Marry this fall, calling for the end to marriage discrimination in Texas and Michigan. Read her story here.

Five years ago, Donald Kish met his daughter Samantha’s friend Erin. At first, that’s all he thought she was: Samantha’s newest friend. A few years later, however, Samantha told him the truth: She and Erin were in love.

After the initial shock wore off, Donald was thrilled that his daughter had found someone to love. “I was excited for her,” he remembered. “She’s my daughter. I love her so much. Everything was fine.”

Donald is a bricklayer, and his wife, Sue, was a bus driver for years before an injury forced her to retire. “We like to work,” Sue admitted.

Donald is also a volunteer firefighter, and he has been for more than 24 years, when he and his wife moved to the little town in Michigan where they live now. When they moved to their new house, Sue was concerned about being able to get in touch with emergency services so far away from town. The fire chief came over to their house and asked if Donald would be interested in joining the fire department.

Donald was immediately fulfilled by helping his community in this way – to him, there was no greater joy than being able to save lives. It also helped to solidify their family’s presence in the community. “We were building a house,” Donald remembered. “That can involve a lot of people.”

Samantha is the youngest of Donald and Sue’s three children. While Sue was still driving Samantha to school in the school bus, their oldest child and only son enlisted in the U.S. Army – right after September 11. “It was worrying since he was young,” Sue said.

She watched as Samantha, still in school, began to decide that she wanted to follow in her brother’s footsteps. “She missed her brother and felt so proud of him at the same time,” Sue said. “But she was still in school. She waited until she felt the time was right to join.”

Samantha has now been in the Army for a year and a half, and she also helps out as a volunteer firefighter in Texas. “She took all that from her brother and me,” Donald said. “If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think she would have joined the Army.” Her father was a huge influence on her committing to firefighting as well. Sue pointed out that Samantha’s older sister, a make up artist, was also an incredible help to Samantha as she grew up, supporting her in every choice that she made.

Of course, the family knew that Samantha was destined to help others from the beginning. “She has a real special need for challenges, and being around people and doing things for people,” Donald reflected. “And also helping out the community, like I do.”

I’m sure if more people had seen a wedding like this, they would agree with what we’re saying. The love was just so emotional and so beautiful.

Although Samantha was always shy, Erin seemed to begin to bring her out of her shell. Samantha’s parents watched Erin influence their daughter by bringing out her “patience, kindness. She’s more outgoing with Erin, for sure,” Donald said. “She was very shy, and now she’s giving speeches in the public, so she’s definitely made a big difference.”

There is nothing but appreciation and love in Donald and Sue’s voices when they talk about Erin and Samantha’s love. “Their wedding was just awesome,” Donald recalled, describing their nuptials from this summer in Canada and later, their celebration in Michigan, where both women grew up. “I’m sure if more people had seen a wedding like this, they would agree with what we’re saying. The love was just so emotional and so beautiful.”

Sue eagerly agreed. “Samantha’s wedding was pure magic. Those two women were radiating so much love, there’s no denying that they are meant to be together.” She added that the ceremony did a beautiful job of bringing Samantha and Erin’s personalities together.

Those two women were radiating so much love, there’s no denying that they are meant to be together.

Sue’s reaction to her daughter not being able to marry in Michigan or in Texas, where they are now building a life together, shows that she thinks everyone’s children should be able to legally commit to whoever they love. “I just think it’s a travesty,” she sighed. “I don’t understand why it should be a state-to-state ruling. I don’t understand why the government thinks they can make a determination on who can legally wed.”

As for Donald, his answer to why same-sex couples should be able to marry wherever they want is simple, paired with a short laugh: “Why not?”

Wedding photography by Christopher Pritchard