Since getting married, I’ve begun feeling the weight of marriage inequality even more than when I was engaged. It strikes me in strange ways. It seems obvious that I got indignant when filling out married customs paperwork on our way home from the honeymoon or filling out new insurance paperwork at the office, because the inequity was thrown in my face. But it somehow hit me harder when we were having a quiet night at home. I was basking in the newly-married glow and realized that yes, this is different. For us, being married matters in an emotional way I hadn’t anticipated. There hasn’t been any giant change in our life together, but saying “husband” is a lot different than “partner,” which is the term I’ve been using for the last few years. And I started crying out of anger and sadness that our gay family and friends can’t use the legal term “husband” or “wife” for themselves. That they get left with partner, when I now know how different it feels to have our family, friends, and legal system all legitimize us as a unit.
For us, it was important to talk about marriage equality and inequality in our wedding. There are many ways to do this, and we talked a long time about what felt right for us. We made private choices, public choices, and symbolic choices that worked for us.
We decided to share our wedding day with people who respected and agreed with our values. We didn't have a ton of onsite vendors, but those we worked with, mattered. They were explicit in their progressive beliefs, which was important. While we chose Kelly Prizel as our photographer because we love her art and clicked with her immediately on the phone, it felt doubly good to support a woman who co-founded So You're EnGAYged, where we started many of our vendor searches.
We purposely joined a family-oriented, open, and fiercely progressive synagogue that believes in tackling social and political problems head on. Of the four clergy members, two are women, one is a married gay male, and one is a straight man. We feel at home here, and we feel inspired and welcomed by the clergy. As we worked with our rabbi on ways to incorporate issues relating to gay marriage, she told us that she donates money to the Human Rights Campaign for each heterosexual wedding she officiates. Finding an officiant who shared our perspective on marriage, religion, and marriage equality was imperative for our wedding.
We made several donations in honor of our wedding. Even though our wedding cost a lot, we felt like we were privileged to be in the position to celebrate like this, and a percentage of our budget went towards four charities. After a lot of research on which gay marriage organization to support, we decided to donate to Equality California, which is working on the local Prop 8 fight,. We included the following language in our program about this donation:
With gratitude for a life that has enabled us to celebrate our legal and spiritual marriage with family and friends, we have made several donations in honor of our wedding:
- Equality California works to achieve equality and secure legal protections for LGBT people. EQCA is an organizational plaintiff in the lawsuit asking the California Supreme Court to strike down state law that bars same-gender couples from marriage and has successfully defended California’s domestic partnership laws and related state policies
During the Ceremony
For us, it was important to acknowledge the injustice during our ceremony itself. We found a ritual that resonated on So You're EnGAYged, which talked about adapting a tradition from the Jewish holiday of Passover. On Passover, Jewish tradition celebrates our freedom from slavery by drinking wine. However, at the same time we also acknowledge the pain and death that occurred to achieve that freedom by spilling ten drops of wine from our glasses, thereby lessening our joy. We used that same symbolism during our wedding, by spilling ceremony wine prior to drinking from our glasses:
“Before drinking from this cup of joy, we acknowledge that our cup is not quite full. We spill out drops of wine in hope that someday all unions will be fully recognized as a marriage by the civil authorities with all of the rights and benefits of marriage, and none of the discrimination that faces these brave souls today. As we raise the cup, we affirm the joy that it does contain, the gifts of this union, the blessings of this love, and the delight of everyone here to celebrate this simcha (joy).”
We had three readings during our wedding, one of which was an excerpt from the Massachusetts court decision that allowed the first legal gay marriages in the United States. Not only does the moment matter, but the majority opinion outlined so many of the important concepts behind marriage that resonate most for me:
In 2003, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts held in 2003 that people of the same sex are entitled to be married according to that state's constitution. The following reading is an excerpt from Chief Justice Margaret Marshall’s majority opinion in "Goodridge Vs. Department of Health"
Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations....Without question, civil marriage enhances the "welfare of the community." It is a "social institution of the highest importance." ... Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family.... Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life's momentous acts of self-definition.