Sue Wieger and Sheila Kloefkorn were content with their busy lives when they met on a South Mountain hike in January of 2011.
Sheila shared, “When we met it was like we’d known each other for a long time. We had an instant chemistry. We shared friends and lived and hiked frequently on two sides of the same mountain but we hadn’t met.” The connection was powerful and it grew quickly. Sharing perspectives about life, relationships, business and their futures, the relationship grew.
Sue was considering relocating to Florida at the time, and Sheila was pleasantly surprised when Sue made the decision to stay and continue to grow her Golf Academy here in the Valley. Sheila was deeply involved in business and non-profit work in Arizona and was interested in sharing her life with a partner in the state she loves.
“We hit it off immediately, and my life has been even more amazing since I met Sheila.” Sue said. “In the past three years we’ve been together, we’ve grown in our love and our commitment. We want to spend the rest of our lives together. We’ve focused on building our relationship, our circle of friends and family, and our businesses and it has been a truly magical experience.”
The happy couple resides together in Tempe, where they share their home with their golden retriever Harley, and their cats Tiga and Timo. “It is always busy around our house! Between the businesses we run, crazy schedules, our pets, and spending time with family and friends, there is never a dull moment.” Sheila said.
Both being family-oriented women, they knew marriage was the right choice for them as they looked to build a life together. In July of 2011, Sue surprised Sheila with a marriage proposal under the majestic red rocks at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. “I was on a cloud from just experiencing my first US Women’s Golf Open and was left speechless,” Sheila said. “OK, not quite, but ‘wow’ seemed to be the only thing I could muster. I swear I have a more extensive vocabulary! Nevertheless I was finally able to get out the ‘Yes!’” It was a very memorable experience.
Sheila and Sue were eager to plan their dream wedding together, but had to consider how they wanted to proceed with the ceremony. Since same-sex couples cannot marry in Arizona, they briefly considered leaving the state to have their marriage legally recognized, but decided to hold their ceremony in Arizona. “We love Arizona. That’s why we had our ceremony here, even though it wasn’t legal.” Sheila said. “We could certainly have gone to another state to be married, like so many of our friends have, but we really wanted to marry here, in the state we love, with our friends and family.”
Sheila and Sue were married at the Phoenix Botanical Gardens in May of 2013. They were joined by more than 170 of their friends and family. “Our wedding day was the most magical day I can remember. To be able to talk about our love and commitment in front of our family and friends meant the world to us.” Sue said. “It cemented our love in the eyes of God and our families.” They couple wrapped up their emotional ceremony with a DJ, lots of dancing, and a celebration among friends!
Despite having a beautiful ceremony and committing themselves to loving one another, Sheila and Sue’s marriage is not recognized by Arizona. Same-sex couples do not have the freedom to marry, so they remain legal strangers in the eyes of our state. We are working to elevate the voices of loving Arizona couples to move marriage forward, but there is still work to be done.
“Some friends asked us after our ceremony if we felt different, and we said we did because of how it solidified our love and commitment.” Sheila said. “But, it feels awkward and sad to say we’re married and then have to explain that it was a ‘fake’ wedding, since marriage equality is not legal in Arizona. To know that your marriage doesn’t really mean anything in your home state is heart wrenching, because in our hearts and to our families, it means everything. Just like our parents and siblings do for their spouses, we want to be able to take care of each other no matter what happens in our future.”