Friday, January 30, 2009

(another chapter from The Brides of March)

One Month Later

One month into same-sex marriage in Multnomah County (the only place in the United States still issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples after a spate of ceremonies in San Francisco, upstate New York, and New Mexico), we were still getting flowers on our front porch.

Even as the Multnomah County Commissioners revisited their decision to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, reviewed the procedure, held three town hall public discussions in which a narrow margin of supporters outweighed those against the marriages, only to vote again in favor of granting licenses to same-sex couples, we received more congratulatory cards in the mail, including one from Duncan’s preschool teacher, who, bless her heart, told her class, “Yes, boys can marry boys,” when the issue came up a decade ago in her classroom.

The weekend after that, we came home to tulips from a family we’ve known since those same preschool days (when our computer gaming sons were small and lacked facial hair), who’d heard about our wedding because of an interview we gave in the Willamette Week, a hip, provocative periodical aimed at the permanently cool, for their regular marriage column “Hitched.”

It was strange to be interviewed, and I paced anxiously through the house awaiting the reporter’s arrival, though I became significantly less intimidated when she showed up in a retro polyester dress and horn rim glasses, and was ten years our junior.

Being immersed in childrearing and the minutiae of daily life, I’m unpracticed at talking on non-domestic topics (I do better in print than in person), but Jannine was ready. As she’s retold the story of her stay in line overnight, she has become firmer about her feelings regarding same-sex marriage, becoming uncharacteristically political and outspoken.

It’s hard to imagine there was a time when she was closeted.

My mother reacted to our interview in the Willamette Week with the attitude of her era: that fools’ names and fools’ faces often appear in public places, repelled at the thought of our lives in a newspaper, something Jannine has had to get used to during the ten years I’ve written social commentary, fluff, and essays on family life that get pretty darned personal.

We didn’t exactly go looking for the publicity, it met us halfway. While we were waiting at the County Building, Byron Beck, “Queer Window” columnist for the Willamette Week, was giving out business cards to couples willing to be interviewed after they got married. Jannine took a card, thought about it, and called him a few days after our reception. She figured, why not? The more people know about the same-sex couples who want legal marriage, the better.

Actually, Byron Beck chose another couple for his column: Darcelle, the publicly-spirited, philanthropic, iconic Portland drag queen (who has been married to a woman for decades), and his male life partner. They couldn’t marry, but had a story to tell, nevertheless. However, Byron passed our number along to the “Hitched” columnist, and she came out with a WW photographer to talk with us in our home.

The picture they printed was horrible. Jannine looks pretty good, and the baby comes out smelling like a rose, but the rest of us have funny faces, our eyes squinting into the spring sun, looking ready to sneeze. Of course, it’s not a beauty contest. The important part was being another set of faces (albeit goofy ones) people can picture in their minds when the subject of same-sex marriage comes up. The more real we seem, the more difficult it is to demonize us, to say that we are different, and less worthy of equal rights for our relationships.

The article did reach a lot of people, as evidenced by the sudden increase in felicitations coming in.

All the couples we know who got married March 3rd have been engulfed with good will. They were shocked at the continuing support in the form of hugs, greeting cards, gifts, and flowers, from friends, from neighbors, from acquaintances, and from strangers who somehow discovered the news. One friend received an e-mail from her brother after being on the news, and she hadn’t heard from him in years.

Jannine thinks they “get it.” She thinks that same-sex marriage suddenly being granted in Multnomah County made it just as suddenly apparent that we’d never been able to before. Over the years, we’ve had well meaning friends and family assume we could get married somewhere. When same-sex marriage came up, they’d say, “But you’re married, right?”


“But you can get married in Vermont?”

“Umm, no, they have civil unions.”

“Didn’t Hawaii pass same-sex marriage?”


“You could get married in Canada.”

“But it wouldn’t count here.”


They didn’t get it that we simply couldn’t get married in any way that was recognized in the United States. We weren’t making some counterculture choice to live together in sin to protest the inherent sexism of traditional marriage, to protect ourselves from increased taxes, or to avoid getting too comfortable in the relationship. When the reality of same-sex marriage arrived, they woke up to what we’d been denied.

They didn’t consider, as the anti-same-sex marriage camp would have the voting public believe, that our marriage threatened their heterosexual marriages. As Lynn Bacon, the former Director of Children’s Religious Education at the First Unitarian Church, said after the weddings on March 3rd, if any straight marriage should be threatened, it’s hers. She went to seven same-sex marriages the first day they were offered, and says her marriage is just fine!

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