Holding Onto Their Dreams In Michigan

Howayda & Erene Hatzistamatis • Macomb, MI

It was January of this year, and Howayda and Erene were planning to leave the cold in Michigan to go on a cruise for Howayda’s birthday. The cruise left from Florida, and the couple went to the mall a few days before they had to fly to the state to shop for the cruise.

The couple stopped into a jewelry store, and Howayda tried on a ring on a fluke, just to see how it looked. Little did she know, Erene had been making payments for a ring for several months.

“I loved the way the ring looked on her hand,” Erene said. She couldn’t wait any longer. “We left, and I turned to her and said, ‘Do you want to get married Monday? We’ll be in Florida, and we have a few hours before we board the cruise.’ We agreed that we didn’t want to wait any longer to call each other wife.”

The next day, Erene went back to the mall and bought their rings, and they flew to Florida the next day. They started their cruise a married couple at last.

Erene already felt like part of the family when she met Howayda – she had been friends with her sister for three years. Hanadi invited Erene out one night, where they met up with Howayda, and it was love at first sight for Erene. “I said from the very beginning I was going to marry Howayda,” Erene laughed.

The couple has great dreams for their future. Howayda was born and raised in Iraq, and moved to the United States 10 years ago. She is a licensed cosmetologist, and hopes to own her own salon some day. Erene is in the US Army Reserve, and hopes some day to grow her budding photography business and open a studio where Howayda can help with hair and makeup for subjects.

They also have big dreams for their family together. “We want lots of kids!” Erene said. “We want boys, and I also want a little girl, a mini Howayda.”

The two know that they’ll be wonderful parents, but it will be difficult to raise the children without their marriage being respected in their home state. “I don’t want our children to experience this,” Erene said.

Erene can’t believe that, although she has devoted so much of her life to serving in the United States Army, her state won’t respect the loving and devoted relationship that she shares with Howayda.

“This country has come a long way in the past 60 years,” Erene reflected. “While I do understand that things take time to change, I do not believe anyone has the right to tell me who I can or cannot marry. They don’t live my life, pay my bills, or sleep in my bed. The people that love us don’t view us as ‘different,’ they want us to be married and start our own family.”