anniversaries: 6 years

craig and darrell have had three weddings, so they know a bit about what some of you are going through. with 17 years and two children under their belt, you could surely learn something from them. here, craig answers my questions about his wedding, his marriage, and his husband. by the way, you might want a box of tissues handy, craig is a fantastic writer and this one made me tear up!

How many years have you been married?
Well, that depends.  We have been together almost 17 years. Legally married for almost 6 years now.

When and where did you get married? 
We got married a few times.  It’s a long story but, here goes:  Neither Darrell or I really had much interest in getting married.  We assumed that, in our lifetime, gay marriage was not going to ever be a reality.  But society progresses in unexpected ways and suddenly, in 2004 the discussion about gay marriage burst onto the scene when the Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, legalized marriage licenses for gay couples for a brief period.  Suddenly everyone was talking about gay marriage and this provoked a response from then-president George Bush in which he said he would amend the constitution to permanently prevent gay couples from getting married.  I am convinced that this approach by Bush was the very thing that galvanized the movement and gave it the most momentum because suddenly many gay people cared a great deal more about our rights to marry than we ever had previously.   So, I quickly learned that the mayor of New Paltz, a small town in upstate New York, was attempting to take the same action as San Francisco by illegally issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.  I made some calls and got us on a list.  They called us back the day before the event and said that about 20 couples would be meeting at a secret location, told me the materials we needed and swore me to secrecy around certain elements of the planning.  We called all our friends and drove from our home in Brooklyn to New Paltz the next day.  The day was full of anxiety and energy – a combination of defiant protest and loving excitement.  We were married with our friends all around us and our first daughter asleep in our arms. 

The second time we got married it was still not legal – we had a big commitment ceremony in New York City in 2007 with family and friends.  It was a beautiful, fun party filled with love.

The last time we got married it was FINALLY the real deal.  We were in MA for vacation in 2007 when, by chance, the ban on out of state couples getting marriage licenses was finally lifted (when Mitt Romney was Governor of MA he invoked an old law prohibiting non-MA based same sex couples from getting marriage licenses.)  We went to the town hall and applied on a Friday and got married on a Monday.  Some friends attended the short ceremony on the town hall steps in Provincetown while Darrell and I held our two daughters in our arms.  We were the first out of state couple to be married in MA.  Nevertheless, it was not recognized in our home state of NY for several more years.  And since that time we have moved our family to PA where it is still not recognized.

What did you like most about your wedding?
I guess I will talk about the big, planned wedding.  Of course it was nice to have my family and friends around us to bless and support our union.  The party was fun too!  But I think I liked the ceremony the best.  A friend of ours officiated and our families participated with readings that we chose.  My Dad and I wrote a speech together that he read about the significance of marriage and the need for marriage equality for all.   We asked if our friends would support us through our future together and I truly felt the support and love in the room.

What would you have done differently about your wedding?
I wish I could remember it more!  The evening was a whirlwind and it kind of just flew past.  I would probably take some time every now and then to stop and make sure I am taking it all in.  But, no, it was pretty perfect. 

What changed after you got married?
Honestly, not much.  The fact that our marriages had no legal merit undermined much of the lasting significance.  By the time we got married we had been together for about 10 years, we had two kids and were living a married life.  In the eyes of the law, the world, we were no different for having gotten married.  In reality, I felt more significance after leaving our lawyers office after executing and filing our wills.  I don’t think many straight people fully understand what it means to be told your relationship is not valid, not fully recognized.  Even though marriage is about a loving union, it is also a contract – legal as well as spiritual.  Imagine being told that you can’t have that.  However, Darrell and I made a commitment to each other to never again refer to the other as a partner or a boyfriend.  We owned the word husband and we don’t shy away from using it – no matter the circumstances.  So that was probably the biggest change.

What surprised you the most about being married?
The love I felt in the room.  I am sometimes shy.  I don’t like to be in front of groups.  But when I looked out on the room full of people from my past – old family friends, school friends from long ago, etc. – it was very affirming.  It was like bringing our whole lives to that point into a room together and taking a huge step forward into another phase of life.  Feeling all that love in the room was truly, magnificently joyous.

What do you like most about being married?
I like having a partner.  Even in the hard times it is affirming to know that I have his company as I pass through the world.  People always say that marriage is a lot of work.  It is.  But it’s not.  The work for me is not hard – it’s purposeful.  When I am a better husband I am a better person.  Sure, there is compromise and there can be conflict.  But that’s what life is – navigating the terrain of the ever-shifting ground under your feet.   With my marriage, I feel I have a hand to hold along the journey.  Could I make this journey alone?  Probably.  But I have chosen not to and I am grateful for that. 

What advice do you have for engaged couples or newlyweds?
For those engaged – know that you will probably fight about your wedding.  Planning a wedding is stressful but, like the marriage ahead, there will need to be compromise and understanding!  For newlyweds, enjoy.

If you could change one thing about your marriage, what would it be?
Not a thing!  We are great partners and great parents.  Our support for one another is constant.   The best part is the laughter.  It’s the fact that we can still laugh together that keeps it fresh. 

How do you celebrate your anniversary?
Because we have so many, we don’t really celebrate our anniversary.  When we got married we gave each other rings with 24 small diamonds on the inside edge of the rings to signify 24 hours in each day.  We decided that our commitment was not about “being together for ever” but about being fully present with and for each other in our lives.  We acknowledge that our time together is a choice that we freely make each and every minute.  So when we exchanged rings we said the words:  “Today I choose you.”  Now, whenever we put our rings back on, we hand it to the other and he puts it on and says those same words: “Today I choose you.”  It’s our way of reminding ourselves that our partnership is always a choice and, no matter the time that passes (or the number of anniversaries that pass) it’s really about how we feel today, in this moment. 

Would you ever consider renewing your vows?
After 3 weddings we have sworn off another… for now!

Anything else?
Thanks Maine for the legal recognition!