May 13, 2004
On May 17, the historic Massachusetts court ruling allowing same-sex couples legal marriage rights is set to go into effect.
My own marriage is a little more than a month old now. It is, at best, shaky. It's not because my seven-year relationship is on the rocks, but because my partner and I are waiting for a court to decide if it's legal.
Although we're both from Georgia, we flew to Portland, Ore., the only place that was still issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples at the time.
It wasn't how I pictured my wedding -- rushed, hushed, in a rabbi's office, officiated by a person I'd never met and witnessed by strangers, instead of with our family and friends 3,000 miles away.
But for some gays and lesbians, any picture of marriage is better than the blank one we used to have.
Because of a few courageous city and county officials throughout the country, we now can at least imagine what it looks like to walk into city hall or the county office building and have a marriage license issued. Because of clergy members who recognize love, not heterosexuality, as the basis of marriage, we now can imagine this ceremony in a house of worship.
Straight couples take months to plan their weddings. They pick their wedding gowns and tuxedos and often select bridesmaids' dresses that only true friends and relatives would wear. They take months laboring over caterers, the reception hall and the ceremony itself.
We had two weeks.
Our marriage hinged on moments. We didn't know when we made plane reservations for April 14 that a court hearing on same-sex marriages was set for two days later.
We had a spiritually moving service performed by a rabbi who had never met us, witnessed by a young heterosexual couple scheduled to get married later this year. They took photos with the cameras we brought with us. In a hastily arranged same-sex marriage, strangers double as witnesses and wedding photographers.
Our marriage is more than a civil union. From the rabbi's words and sentiments, we know this is more than a self-avowed committed relationship. A marriage carries greater responsibility.
Ironically, the solemnity and respect for the institution is often more valued by the people who have been denied it -- or may have it taken away from them -- than the people who don't have to think twice about it.
We made it under the wire: A judge ruled just one week later that the county must stop issuing marriage licenses.
At the same time he ordered marriages stopped, he fortunately also ordered the state of Oregon to recognize the 3,000-plus marriages that had already been performed. So at least for now, our marriage is still legitimate somewhere. But for how long?
We had originally thought of marrying in Massachusetts but our hopes of getting married in Massachusetts were dashed when Attorney General Tom Reilly decided to uphold a 1913 state law prohibiting the state from issuing marriage licenses to couples whose states would not recognize the union. The technicality is still pending, though several local clerks in Massachusetts have said they would defy the outdated law and grant out-of-state same-sex couples marriage licenses.
No matter what happens, we will never forget our wedding, which, despite all the factors going against it, transcended anything we could have imagined. And we will forever hold onto the rabbi's words we believe will someday be as common for couples like us as for others: "And by the power vested in me ... I now pronounce you legally married."
Cheryl Segal is an online producer at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Atlanta. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.