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AARP The Magazine

Boomers@50+

The New American Family

Meet 6 clans who embody our country's changing ideas about what kinship is

Making It Legal

Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriage, in 2003. Now 17 states and the District of Columbia allow gay couples to wed, and many longtime partners have taken the plunge.

Modern Factor: "I always hoped that gay marriage would come to fruition, but for so long it seemed like something from a novel from outer space," says Leona Strong, 65, who has been married to Grace Sonya Harper, 62, since 2008. The two women have been together for nearly 27 years.

Leona, a retired airline ticketing manager, was previously married to a man and has three biological kids: sons George, far left, and Kennaz, far right, and daughter Kimberly, in the patterned top. Leona's ex-husband, she says, is very much a part of the family: "There's no hardship or any type of uneasiness among us. We are very fortunate in having everybody get along."

Though feeling "gay since birth," Leona says it wasn't until she nearly died during a medical procedure in 1975 that she chose to follow her "true life." At the time, her children were all under age 10. "I told them, 'I'm still going to be your mom,' " she says. " 'No matter what they say about us, we are going to remain a family.' " When Grace, a municipal safety official, entered the picture, she quickly became part of that family. Now there are two grandchildren, Brandon (in red) and Justez (in orange), and two great-grandchildren, Taryn (on George's lap) and Alysha (center). They call Leona "Grancie" (third from left) and Grace "Grandma Sonya."(next to Strong). (Also pictured above is goddaughter Lynnette, in the blue shirt.)

"I have a wonderful wife," Leona says. "We have a beautiful home. We have a great family. We're the two happiest old people you could ever meet." Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriage, in 2003. Now 17 states and the District of Columbia allow gay couples to wed, and many longtime partners have taken the plunge.

Next page: An adult child with autism (video). »

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