TALKING TO FRIENDS: Marriage Changes Priorities

Guest Blogger: Thalia Zepatos

As I travel around the country organizing and speaking out on LGBT rights –especially equal marriage rights for same-sex couples -- people often ask me how I developed a passion for this work. I had been a straight ally in the fight against discrimination for years, but didn't especially feel that "marriage was the issue" I wanted to focus on.

Then something really surprising happened: I feel in love with Mike. We met in our forties, and, frankly, I never really expected it to happen. We spent our first year falling in love, laughing and delighting one other, introducing each other into our already full lives filled with family and friends. I knew that I was a goner when I—a former travel writer and inveterate traveler—went to Vietnam for three weeks and seriously considered coming home early to see Mike before the trip was over.

Eventually we moved in together and started to make plans for the future. Our parents prodded us gently, and sometimes not so gently-- when we would we get married? What were we waiting for?

We talked about marriage as one way to demonstrate our commitment, and knew that it provided valuable protections that would help us to care for one another through life's challenges. There was just one thing holding us back—it seemed so unfair to our gay and lesbian friends, especially the couples we were so close to.

We'd had more than one conversation with gay couples who'd attended straight weddings and found them to be deeply upsetting. Over and again, they'd show up to celebrate the "day full of joy" for a relative or friend—each part of the tradition a bitter reminder that their own relationship may never get see that day full of photos and flowers, or the lifetime of social support and legal protections that follow.

None of our friends ever suggested we not get married. But Mike and I were reluctant to take advantage of a right that was denied to so many others. It felt like we would be joining a club that excluded them from even walking through the door—and at the same time asking them to come and applaud our crossing that threshold, and maybe bring a gift along, too!

We discussed it periodically and put off the decision, hoping and working to change those unjust laws. After several years together we found ourselves facing heartbreaking challenges within our own families—we learned that both Mike's mom and my Dad were terminally ill. We had delayed getting married, and now we realized that we were running out of time. We wanted our parents to celebrate with us, while they still could.

We hastily made plans for a small wedding in Mexico, followed by a larger reception at home in Portland. Mike's mom would wear a wig to cover the hair lost to chemo. My Dad, with advancing Alzheimer's disease, could still travel and enjoy the celebration, although my Mom would have to take special care of him.

We felt there was only one way to resolve our dilemma. During our wedding reception, Mike and I stood before our community and took one additional vow: to do everything within our power to fight for the freedom to marry for all those who are denied that chance.

Our wedding bonded us as family in a way that nothing else could do. It gave us a chance to celebrate—and share—the love we find in one another. Today we go on, motivated by the fact that no one should be denied a chance to share that same joy. And we do whatever we can—wherever we can—to fight on the side of love.

Thalia Zepatos, Political Consultant