A Kenyan woman has married her American bride in Des Moines, Iowa.
Terry Wakonyo Ng’endo, 24, and Courtney Nicole, 25, wedded in a same-sex civil union at the Polk County Courthouse last Friday.
The newly-weds held a reception on Saturday in Shawnee, Kansas, where they were joined by family and friends who included about 60 Kenyans.
The “groom” is originally from Nairobi.
The couple, both residents of Kansas, travelled to Iowa as Kansas does not recognize same-sex marriages.
Homosexual marriages in Iowa became legal on April 3, 2009. More than 80 per cent of such marriages are between couples from neighbouring states.
Ng’endo has lived an openly gay life in Kansas. Her friends describe her as a good friend to most Kenyans and someone who is proud of who she is.
“Ng’endo has lived among us and has been a very good friend. I think I speak on behalf of many Kenyans who know her in Kansas,” a woman, who did not want to be identified, said. “They are very nice people and if this is what they have chosen, we should respect them.”
Ng’endo’s bride says she has since changed her name to Courtney Ng’endo. She has two sons aged five and four. She spoke of the moment she met Ng’endo.
“I had a husband before and hence my two sons, but I was not comfortable in the relationship as I knew I was interested in girls,” Courtney said. “I was never able to come out in the open but the moment I met Ng’endo, I knew that this was my time to come out.”
According to Courtney, the couple has been dating for the last two years and was engaged in February.
Courtney also added that “some gay Kenyans have opened up to Ng’endo and confided in her the fact that they are afraid of being openly gay for fear of hostility from fellow Kenyans”.
At the wedding reception, song and dance filled the room. A popular Kikuyu song Muthuri ta uyu…mwamwonire kuu? — Have you ever seen a good man such as this one? — underscored the theme of the wedding.
But for one Kenyan, the wedding was a sign that end of the world is nigh. “This is how you know the world is coming to an end. However tolerant I want to be, this is too much,” said Wanjira from Kansas City, Missouri.
The story came to light after Kenyans who claimed to be gay sent separate messages to a Kenyan website in US- www.jambonewspot.com complaining that the story was being “ignored by conservative Kenyan websites in the US”.
“I heard of this female couple that got married last weekend in Kansas (it was actually in Iowa) but you guys never seem to cover anything related to gays. From what I have heard, there was very little hostility towards the Kenyan lady. Maybe Kenyans are finally coming of age considering this is in Kansas which is a Midwestern state,” read one e-mail from a reader calling himself/herself “Proud to be gay from CA” from Palo Alto, California.
In 2009, all the Kenyans websites in the US carried the story of a Kenyan man who wedded another man in London.
A survey conducted in 2010, showed that 44 per cent of the state residents supported same sex marriages, making it the only state that allowed same-sex marriages to record less that 50 per cent support.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research poll, 51 per cent of Americans now believe that same-sex marriages should receive legal recognition. A similar poll by ABC/Washington Post showed a similar outcome.
In November 2010, the three Iowa Supreme Court Justices, who were involved in the ruling legalising same-sex marriages in the state, were removed from office after judicial retention elections.
Legislation introduced in the US Senate late last week seeks to give bi-national same-sex couples the same rights as married couples for immigration purposes.
The Uniting American Families Act was reintroduced Thursday, April 14, seeking to allow the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender American citizens the ability to sponsor their “permanent partners” or spouses for legal residency in the United States.