By Charlene Strong

Originally published on Advocate.com October 22 2009 12:20 PM ET

“Does it feel any different ... being married, that is?”
 
It had only been 45 minutes since we’d said “I do,” and Keith and I were hit with the first real question of our married life. We looked at each other, paused a moment, and then both answered “Yes.”
 
I can’t really explain it, but there was something different, and there still is. There was a feeling of permanence that seemed to color the two of us more so than before. It was a very profound experience to stand up in front of friends, family, and, in our case, the state of Connecticut, and declare to love, honor, and take care of each other for the rest of our lives. For us as gay men, it was particularly poignant, as it wasn’t easy getting there, figuratively or literally.
 
Our flight took off from sunny Fort Lauderdale, bound for New York City. From there we’d spend the night with two close friends and catch a train from Grand Central Station to Westport, Conn., about an hour outside of the city. Longtime home to Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, it seemed like the perfect place to cement our lifelong union.
 
CHARLES PEREZ KEITH RINEHARD WEDDING STATION X560 (COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COM
 
Our wedding officiant picked us up at the train station outside of Westport, in south Norwalk. A ball of energy and efficiency, Mary Pugh sang the praises of her home state all the way into town. She told us that, unbeknownst to her until a fellow justice of the peace informed her, she’d performed more same-sex unions than anyone else in the state of Connecticut. She seemed to be pretty proud of that. She went on to tell us that he (her colleague) said he preferred performing same-sex ceremonies because “when they get married it’s something the really want!” She enjoyed sharing that with us as well.











1 PIXEL GIF | ADVOCATE.COMCHARLES PEREZ KEITH RINEHARD WEDDING SOLO X560 (COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COM


Within an hour we were at Westport City Hall.
It’s a beautiful colonial building sitting atop a small hill in the
center of town. It couldn’t have been more picture-perfect.
 
Inside,
we were met by three amazingly friendly women in the city clerk’s
office. They were proud of Connecticut’s embrace of same-sex marriage
and couldn’t do enough to help us and congratulate us. Coming from
Miami, the city with the most road rage incidents in the nation, it
was a bit like stepping into an alternative universe. 
 
Standing
before them, after forking over $35, we raised our right hands and took
a civil oath. In exchange, we got our marriage license. It was a pretty
terrific moment.






1 PIXEL GIF | ADVOCATE.COMCHARLES PEREZ KEITH RINEHARD WEDDING SIGNING X560 (COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COM


The entire
experience had a surreal quality to it. I don’t think we let go of each
other’s hand the entire time we were in Westport. That’s not unusual
for us. But it was a bit of a deal in a town where we’d never been. We
were never received with anything but smiles and good wishes. Frankly,
the only time I’ve felt that kind of acceptance has been in
Provincetown, but that was always surrounded by mostly gay men and
women. This was in a largely straight community. It left me with the
feeling that this is the way it’s supposed to be. “Look, honey! Look at
the cute couple getting married!” Not, “Are those two gay people
getting married?” The difference is significant. But I guess we have
to go through the one to get to the other.
 

CHARLES PEREZ KEITH RINEHARD WEDDING SWEARING X560 (COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COM 

1 PIXEL GIF | ADVOCATE.COMCHARLES PEREZ KEITH RINEHARD WEDDING IN TOWN X560 (COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COM

We
wanted to get married on the beach, but as luck would have it, the sky
opened up and the rain came down that morning. Our parents had flown in,
and a few good friends joined us from the city — one came all the way
from Budapest. It was Sunday, September 27, at 11 a.m.
 
We didn’t
have any backup plans, but sometimes it’s better that way. There was a
marina alongside the beach where we thought we’d be getting married. In
the marina there was a little boathouse with a giant fireplace that
looked about 150 years old. The front porch of the boathouse looked
out on the marina and the boats and the sun breaking through the
clouds in the distance. The folks there,
happy to oblige, let us use that boathouse free of charge.



1 PIXEL GIF | ADVOCATE.COMCHARLES PEREZ KEITH RINEHARD WEDDING FOUR X560 (COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COM

So
there, on the porch, surrounded by the mothers who raised us, a proud
father and his partner, a handful of close friends, and under the rain,
which seemingly washed everything clean and granted us a new beginning
from that moment forward, we got married.
 
We said some very
important things on that front porch.  We promised to give the highest
priority to the tenderness, gentleness, and kindness that our marriage
deserves. We promised to not hold grudges and to remember to forgive.
We pledged to support each other in our dreams and in sickness and
health and joy and sorrow, always hoping for more joy than sorrow but
mindful that life has its own plans.

1 PIXEL GIF | ADVOCATE.COMCHARLES PEREZ KEITH RINEHARD WEDDING LEAD X560 (COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COM

Most
important, for us, was the promise to focus on what’s right between
us and not on that which seems wrong. To be the father to each other’s
children and to cherish each other as long as we both shall live.
 
It’s pretty heavy stuff, but it’s also amazingly light, empowering, and uplifting. It’s bigger than either of us individually.



At the end, Mary pronounced us, according to the laws of the great state of Connecticut, a married couple, husband and husband.
 
We kissed.



1 PIXEL GIF | ADVOCATE.COMCHARLES PEREZ KEITH RINEHARD WEDDING KISS X560 (COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COM



 

From there, we celebrated. Champagne was popped and toasts were shared all around.
 
At
our wedding brunch, our friends and family told stories and laughed.
Our families were coming together. That’s what happens in a marriage — families come together, and a new one is made. That’s what I feel
happened to us that day. Something new, the marriage of Keith and
Charles, came into existence, and those we love and the state of
Connecticut acknowledged it. Maybe it shouldn’t matter, but it does.
 
Our
friend Anne was there. She arrived that morning from Manhattan. With
her came two little men, grooms, that now proudly stood on top of our
wedding cake.
 
One at a time, we fed each other that slice of wedding cake, to the cheers of all around.
 
It was good. It was very good.









 
CHARLES PEREZ KEITH RINEHARD WEDDING CAKE X560 (COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COM


 

So
now we march off into the future, charged with making good on all that
we promised to each other. I don’t think either of us expects it to be
easy, but, as a good friend once told me, character is never built by
doing easy things.  On the other hand, when you’re with the one you
love, it is the easiest thing in the world.