Sunday, September 20, 2015

They shouldn't have had to wait till their Third Thirds

Yesterday, Jay and Gene were married for the fourth or fifth time. But only now – finally, finally! – is it legal in all its details. Their first marriage in Anchorage was commitment-only, not legal. The Portland marriage was nullified by the State of Oregon. In between there were Canadian and South African weddings, but those were either missing some certification or only led to civil unions. (I may be inaccurate on some of these; it’s very confusing.)

So a love that blossomed in their Second Thirds had to wait till their Third Thirds to finally be legal. It’s a terrible shame … and yet finally, a fabulous victory.
I can’t remember exactly how we met. Probably theater. Not only did Gene offer me my favorite role of my acting career (Janice in Italian American Reconciliation by John Patrick Shanley) – the role responsible for the present color of my hair) but together we staffed Out North. In fact, if Out North were their only legacy, it would have been enough.

Right off the bat, I must have met Jay, too. As one woman put it, you learn very quickly they’re a package deal.

Jay and Gene were married in a Quaker wedding, which was a New Thing for me to experience. As weddings go, it’s between eloping and hiring the hall, but a lot more meaningful. It’s silent. Everyone thinks about marriage, about Jay and Gene, about commitment, about things. And when they feel moved to share, they speak up. Then everyone silently thinks about what was said. Until the next person feels moved to speak.

Tim and I eloped. I’m uncomfortable with being the center of attention (unless I’m on stage) and so I’m not very good about celebrating life passages. Someone once told me that attitude doesn’t give the community a chance to celebrate with you, and I guess I never understood that until Gene and Jay’s wedding. We all wanted to be there. We wanted to witness this finally-have-the-opportunity event.

This is what was right and fitting about this whole milestone: Jay and Gene were the first step in the quest for same sex marriage in Alaska. They were the actual pioneers, the ones who filed the first lawsuit after their marriage license was rejected. When the battle became too wearisome over the years and years and years, they moved to England.

Only at the wedding, when Taylor spoke, did I realize the hurt that went into leaving. Somehow I’d always thought of it as another political statement. Somehow I’d missed the emotional toll. But Taylor reminded us that Jay was raised here, that they were embedded in the fabric of this community. Only now, when I’ve looked at relocation, at how wrenching it would be to leave where you’ve built a home, do I understand how hurtful the process of feeling you have to leave could be.

It was a right too long delayed, this marriage of their Third Thirds. Who knows what else they could have done if they hadn’t had to expend energy on this hard-fought, well-won road to legal marriage? But Gene and Jay crossed one off the “to do” list. That’s a capstone for anyone’s Third Third.

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