Tomorrow, James and Peter are getting married. Legally. In Massachusetts. Congratulations!!
I love weddings. I’ve been a bride four times with two different partners. In 1977, I married my (male) high school sweetheart. We renewed our vows 10 years later in a small church ceremony. Eventually – sadly – we went our separate ways.
Then, at the beginning of the new millennium my partner M and I were joined in a lovely church wedding. A few months later, we went to Vermont to make it legal – well, at least as legal as it could be for lesbians back then: we had a civil union ceremony before a Vermont justice of the peace.
I have lots of wonderful memories of all four ceremonies: Having long conversations full of imagination and promise. Picking out the music. Choosing the wedding party. Selecting the guests. Registering for gifts. Ordering the food and the flowers. Worrying about the outcome. As each ceremony grew closer, we watched time speed up exponentially as we realized how much was left to do. And then, on the big day, we finally relaxed and enjoyed ourselves; we knew we had done all we could.
But of all these cherished experiences, none is more important to me than our Vermont ceremony. I will never forget the chill I got when our judge said, “By the power vested in me by the state of Vermont…” As our little party stood in the drawing room of that old bed and breakfast – just the judge, my aunt and uncle, and my partner and I – the authority and weightiness of that phrase – “the power vested in me by the state of Vermont” – was palpable.
At the time, we were considered pioneers for getting joined in a civil union. Not many people had gone to Vermont. I was surprised and touched by the interest others took in our ceremony. (You were one of them, James.)
Now I understand better why our friends felt so invested in what we did. With every civil union, the LGBT community became just a little bit more equal; and at the same time, Americans became just a little less afraid. The smallest incremental steps taken by individual couples, when added together, became the journey of an entire community.
Fast forward to 2009. Gay marriage is now legal in Vermont, Massachusetts, and a few other states. Public opinion has shifted significantly. Even some conservatives are willing to consider civil unions. But we are no longer satisfied with second best. Many of us now see civil unions as a quaint “separate but equal” artifact whose time has passed.
So now, James and Peter, you are getting married. Now, you are the pioneers. We know that our tomorrows will improve just a little bit the minute you say “I do.” You are clearing a path ahead for the rest of us, and for that we are all indebted to you.
Thank you for your bravery and determination. May you live happily ever after!