Eight people gathered in the livingroom of our house in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles for the ceremony. Earlier, on May 16, 2004, our union had been blessed by Bishop Jon Bruno, the first time a sitting bishop in the Episcopal Church had done so. It was a huge event. So this time we simply asked a few friends to visit our home for the civil ceremony. It was indicative of changing marriage laws deeply affecting gay relations.
Our group included a heterosexual couple, an interracial gay male couple, and a woman Buddhist priest who had long been a friend of Mark's since childhood. The ceremony was brief, to the point, and touching in its simplicity. Mark's and my hands were tied together by a silk scarf painted years ago by my late mother Beatrice. The scarf's artistic white cranes connoted longevity, happiness and health.
When the ceremony ended, I wondered: had anything seriously changed in Mark's and my loving relationship over the past three decades? Yes!
We discovered a new feeling of permanence that mysteriously entered and strengthened our life together. Our eyes had been opened to relax in our life together. To accept our blessings as gifts. To acknowledge a deepening quality in our relationship. I quickly learned there is a lot more to marriage than I'd had any idea. This new spiritual experience wasn't superficial "pop" culture. It had little or no connection to "stereotypes" of any kind, including love or partnership or ideas of marriage itself.
Instead it was a pure gift that had tragically long been denied gay folk by hatred and bigotry, maybe often sheer indifference. But now we found ourselves in a time of vast social change, fresh beginnings, even fresh pathways into the human heart. When Mark and I kissed at the close of the ceremony in our living room, it was a different kiss than it used to be. Our kiss had more to do with permanence and belonging than, say, romance. So I found this ushered in fresh meanings of responsibility and permanence and meaning.
Our ceremony reminded us that we belong to one another in ways far deeper than we'd imagined. Really our kiss that concluded the ceremony in our living room became far more than any stereotype of a kiss. It partook of a covenant between us. Somehow it changed the nature or substance of our being together in the world.
So the kiss carried deep meanings of mutual responsibility and even servanthood in the world. Get it? The truth is that we belong to one another.
This is the only way life makes sense.
A journalist could easily look at our marriage in three sequences: (l) Before the Marriage, (2) During the Marriage and (3) After Our Marriage. Under # 1, a reporter would note that we had lived together in a relationship for thirty years. Then a question might be asked: "Is marriage really a new reality in our lives?" Of course, a journalist would have to deal with the matter of perception in the eyes of other people. Such perception becomes a major element.
"During the marriage" brings up the valid question: Is this new territory? I am fullly aware that my parents died many years ago. The very idea of my getting married to another man would have simply been incomprehensible to either or both of them. Maybe the word "marriage" is the real shocker here. Our definitions of it have changed in seemingly endless ways.
"After" the marriage simply deals with the actuality of being here. Together. Under a new kind of definition. For some it might mean feelings akin to walking on the moon. For everyone, I think it must involve all sorts of answers to the question "Will anything change? " 'This is up to both you and me. In other words, to us. And what do I really think? I know that change has a gradual side; it takes time; people must get used to it. In a democratic society, change does not come from above. It has a gradual quality because it is, frankly, essentially up to a vast number of people what we actually want. At the same time, a frozen society that simply worships the past needs a good shaking up. A shaking up by the people themselves, not something superimposed by power.
I wish you good luck with change. Let me say: I've just had a moving experience with change. In many ways it has actually changed my life. I am deeply grateful for it.