Sunday, September 1, 2013

Wedding bells and all that jazz

Same-sex relationships typically begin with a bump in the night and until recently never were allowed to rise above the furtive, the unmentionable, not something you'd bring up in church or at a Thanksgiving dinner, or expect to find celebrated in the local newspaper's social page.

That mum if not explicit disapproval weighed on the relationships regardless how long the couples were together: Stew and I have been together forty-one years; Don and Richard, forty-two; David and Myron, thirty-seven; Perry and Greg for forty-three; Charles and Robert lived together over fifty years until Robert's death after a long illness did them apart a few years ago. Indeed, you start to believe marriage didn't matter or didn't apply to people like you anyway.

After so many years of oppression, and there's really no better word, reaction among gay couples we know to the prospect of being able to get legally married has ranged from glee by some who rushed to the nearest marriage bureau, to stammering disbelief and indecision. For the latter, it's as if they'd been faithfully mailing their entries for thirty or forty years and finally the sonovabitch from Publishers Clearing House shows up at their front door and they don't know what to say or do.

Stew and I pretended that getting married was not an urgent or even emotional issue. It would be nice but we could wait for Illinois to approve marriage equality, which seems likely within the next year.

Or not. Stew, pretty much on his own, methodically began putting together a wedding trip to a state that allows same-sex weddings and settled on Massachusetts, to some extent because he's never been to New England. There are hotel, car and flight reservations, a specific locality in which to get a marriage license, a minister to officiate and a jeweler to sell you wedding rings.

Yesterday, Stew unveiled the results of his labors. We'll fly to Boston and drive to Provincetown on Monday, September 23 to apply for the license, and get married on Saturday, September 28 at 11 a.m., at the First Parish Church of Stowe and Acton, a Unitarian congregation just outside of Boston. Rev. Thomas Rosiello will officiate. Jan Dee Jewelers, a small gay-owned shop in Chicago, where we'll stop on the way to Boston, will have our wedding bands ready for us.  The only detail pending is finding a fourth person to take a picture of the event.

This morning when I made the announcement at the church we attend tears rolled down my face and I could hardly get the words out. After dismissing it for months as an abstract technicality, a mere piece of paper, the reality and significance of marriage—of having our relationship, for so long hidden or dismissed by others as illegitimate or unimportant—actually recognized by a third party and being able to celebrate it publicly, finally came to me.

I am, unexpectedly, really happy and excited about getting married.

But there's yet one more detail pending that Stew mentioned over lunch. We need to put together a guest list and pick a place for a wedding reception to which we can invite all our friends, gay or straight; men and women; married, single and undecideds. Finally out in the open, under the beautiful San Miguel skies.

Amazing.

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