I Cry At Weddings

I cry at weddings, and last week I had yet another opportunity to borrow a tissue.

I was invited to this particular ceremony by someone I have come to know through service on a nonprofit board. He’s the sort of quiet, solid citizen that others depend on, the guy down the street who works hard, who harbors zero political ambitions despite serving a couple of terms on his township’s school board, the guy whose neighbors know they can call on him in a pinch.

There wasn’t a large crowd at the church—the couple’s families (including my friend’s children by a prior marriage), folks from the neighborhood where they have lived for twelve years, others they’ve met through a variety of civic organizations. It was probably as racially diverse a group as I’ve seen in a church, perhaps because this particular couple is interracial. The crowd was not only black and white, however; among the people I knew, I saw Christians and Jews, Republicans and Democrats, gay and straight, young and old.

During the brief ceremony, there were readings from members of both families, including my friend’s children from the prior marriage. One of his daughters (the mother of his adored grandson) is deaf, so she signed her part, which was lovely and touching. I didn’t really tear up, however, until the part where the couple left the altar to present each of their mothers with flowers and express their gratitude for the years of love and support. (Hey, what can I tell you—I’m a mom too!)

Finally, after rings were exchanged and the ceremony concluded, the grooms invited everyone to join them at the reception.

Oh yes—I forgot to mention that this wasn’t a legally-binding marriage. It was a commitment ceremony. Although it was otherwise indistinguishable from other Christian wedding ceremonies I’ve attended, my friend and his life partner walked out of church still strangers in the eyes of the law. Although they have lived together for 12 years, although they publicly declared their intent to live together for the rest of their lives, although they have the love and support of their families, although they are law-abiding, taxpaying citizens, they won’t be filing joint tax returns.

Their relationship won’t entitle them to the 1012 legal incidents of marriage that my husband and I automatically enjoy—“special rights” like social security survivor benefits, hospital visitation, automatic joint ownership of the home they’ve shared, an automatic right to inherit property that they’ve jointly acquired, and on and on. For my friend and his partner, securing these rights requires copious and expensive legal documentation.

As if this denial of equal treatment isn’t galling enough, the Indiana Legislature is once again trying to rub salt in the wound of second-class citizenship by passing a constitutional amendment to confirm that status—and arguably prevent passage of any other legal recognition, including civil unions. If HJR 6 passes, it will send a strong signal that gay people are not welcome in Indiana.

One of the other people at the commitment ceremony was a woman I hadn’t seen since my days in City Hall, during the Hudnut Administration.  She is a very conservative Republican, and I was surprised to see her there. She explained that she had met our mutual friend through their joint service on a nonprofit board. Then she added something well worth pondering: “I consider myself a strong social conservative, but for the life of me, I can’t understand why same-sex marriage threatens my marriage or hurts anyone.”

I don’t understand that either. That’s one reason I cry at weddings.


  1. For the sake of simplicity, if we crudely lump people into only heterosexual or homosexual, I’ve probably seen a greater percentage of homosexuals with the character I trust to get us out of the proverbial foxhole with the shrapnel flying overhead.

    However, I’ve got a couple of caveats supporting traditional marriage, while still supporting something else legal and meaningful for others wanting this lifelong commitment:

    I don’t think the respective constituencies want to abandon Hanukkah or Kwanzaa in favor of Christmas. Why should marriage be abandoned as a convention between men and women? Why can’t a new tradition be more interesting than “commitment ceremony”, but more successful than marriage?

    Secondly, given the greater statistical failure of single-parenting, I would argue for incentivizing men and women creating children with marriage. We may have “evolved” and there’s more than one way to successfully raise children, but traditional marriage and particularly family seem to still serve our global competition well. Are we interesting in globally competing?

  2. I think the offense is taken depending upon wording. Bible thumpers lover their “marriage” even though 60% of us divorce yearly. They also hide behind an old book and use it to castigate others whom they dislike or don’t understand

  3. I can’t speak well for opponents of marriage equality because I don’t agree with them, and I become more certain of my support for gay marriage as the years pass. That said, I try to understand them because I know a few opponents who are nothing like vicious bigots, opposing same sex marriage out of pure meanness.

    So, what’s going on in their minds. There is some deference to perceived authority. They think the Bible commands against homosexuality and, so, that settles the argument.

    There are some who believe that marriage is a critical pillar to our civilization. And that, gay marriage alters that pillar in fundamental ways — ways that aren’t often articulated (and maybe they’ll even tell you, they don’t exactly know precisely what will change). But, there is a notion that unleashing such change will profoundly disrupt the culture of which marriage is such an integral part. (This meshes powerfully with a general sense of the world changing too fast in uncertain ways aside from gay marriage.)

    But, balanced against such fears — even if they aren’t malicious — I will see two people of the same sex, such as those described by Sheila, who love each other and want to commit to each other by getting married. And, like Sheila’s social conservative friend, once real people are involved rather than “abstract gay people,” for the life of me, I can’t see what all the fuss is about. Let them get married already.

  4. It was my honor to stand up with our friends at their ceremony. I met them both through my partner of eight and a half years who was born and raised in Indianapolis. I consider them my extended family along with my partner’s family, and have always felt welcomed in Indianapolis.

    As a gay male living in Chicago, I appreciate having the right to enter into a legally recognized civil union in the State of Illinois. Six years ago my partner and I registered as domestic partners with the City of Chicago and were fortunate that our employers recognized our domestic partnership and were able to be on each other’s insurance at one time or another during our time together.

    Sadly, my partner died as a result of a car accident this past December. We had not set up living wills or power of attorney. So, on top dealing with the grief, loss and stress of final arrangements, I also had to navigate the legal maze of hospital visitation rights and being able to make medical decisions on my partner’s behalf. Thankfully, I have a great relationship with my partner’s siblings and they knew of and respected my partner’s wishes. Fortunately, with the assistance of a case worker and the risk management person at the hospital, they were able to find a way to ensure my right to be at partner’s bedside, expect and demand that the medical professionals would provide me with updates on my partner’s condition, and ultimately (with the support of his siblings), make the heart wrenching decision to stop heroic measures after their second attempt to resuscitate him.

    While my friends’ ceremony was filled with love, solemnity, laughter and joy, I also felt pangs of bitter irony. These two amazing men who supported me during my partner’s hospitalization, still do not have the same rights my partner and I had at the time of his hospitalization and death.

    Through my partner and my friends, I have met so many wonderful people in Indianapolis. I consider it my home away from home. Some of them are LGBT, and many others not. They all may not fully understand why this is so important to the LGBT community, but they are able to understand why this is important to my friends and me. Our families and friends support us. Even if they may not fully understand it, they still love us and support us. I guess the next step is to get them to show their support when they step into the voting booth.

    One of my friends is a graduate of IU and the other a graduate of Purdue. They proudly displayed their “House Divided” flag at their reception and at the front door of their home. Some might say, “It’s only football.” I say, it’s a powerful metaphor of how a house can be “divided” while not being divisive, or dismissive. After all, a football game is no fun if there is only one team on the field. That’s just a practice and I know that my friends have not been “just practicing.”

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