I’ve been married 28 years to the same person, though half that time he identified as a lesbian and for the last 14 years as a transgender man. Because we started “marrying” long before marriage equality was legal, we’ve now had five wedding ceremonies — each one a move forward in our legal protections.
Above: Our 1999 wedding with best man Jeff and maid of honor Athena.
In 1985, West Hollywood become the first city in the nation to create legal status by passing a domestic partnership ordinance. It was the first place we went to get hitched, having a private ceremony for two and framing our certificate like it was a Harvard diploma. When we moved to Marin County, Calif., in 1993, we had our second wedding with our domestic partnership papers in tow. Then in 1999, California established the nation’s first statewide domestic partnership registry. In celebration, we were invited to join a small group of long-term LGBTQ couples for a ceremony officiated by San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. My husband (and Advocate deputy editor) Jacob and I wore matching white dresses, were interviewed on national news, and our colleagues at Girlfriends magazine threw us a queer wedding shower I’ll always remember.
Above: Our 2004 V-Day Newsom wedding.
It was meaningful, but not equivalent to legal marriage (we were missing more than 1,000 federal rights). When we learned on Valentine’s Day in 2004 that then-San Francisco mayor (and now California governor) Gavin Newsom was marrying couples at City Hall, we rushed down and spent a day in line with dozens of other queer couples. Florists delivered flowers sent from loving strangers in congratulations. It was thrilling and I spent much of the day in tears.
Above: 2006: finally legal (that’s a gay-friendly priest!)
Unfortunately, 29 days later, the weddings were halted and our marriage was discarded as a defiant act of civil disobedience. That same year, several couples, including my friends Robin Tyler and the late Diane Olson sued for the right to marry — and in 2008 the California Supreme Court ruled in their favor. But hopes of marriage equality were quickly dashed when Proposition 8 passed, stripping the state’s same-sex couples of the right to wed. That’s when Tyler, Olson, and others contested the constitutionality of Prop. 8, and it was eventually struck down in 2012 by a federal appeals court (the U.S. Supreme Court let that ruling stand the following year). Meanwhile, several other lawsuits — including from Edie Windsor and Jim Obergefell — also pushed the issue of marriage equality to the nation’s highest court, which eventually ruled to legalize same-sex marriages nationwide in 2015.
Above: With Lance Bass and his hubby at Ft. Lauderdale’s Love is Love wedding in 2015 (now they’re becoming dads!)
For us, something else happened. My wife became my husband, and as soon as his driver’s license reflected his gender we could legally wed. After decades of fighting for marriage equality, it felt strange to suddenly have the privilege because the law now viewed us as an “opposite-sex” couple. We polled our queer friends, and at their urging in 2006 we celebrated a fifth wedding (a “they can’t take this one away from us” ceremony). We put it together ourselves for $2,000, despite a wedding planner’s assurances it would take at least 10 times that amount in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most of our family came and—proving that nothing matches a legal marriage—many treated our 15-year relationship as more “real” afterwards. (We symbolically wed again in 2015, when we joined Lance Bass and his hubby as ambassadors for the Love is Love event, a legal mass wedding ceremony, at the W Fort Lauderdale hotel.)
Above: Us today, by Luke Fontana
In hindsight, our 28-year marriage is a reflection of the marriage equality movement. Something we didn’t think would be possible when we were kids turned into something we desperately fought for—to have the legal and economic protections afforded to straight couples. That we’ve come a long way in nearly three decades is reflected in the words and lives of the LGBTQ couples we interviewed in this issue, including our cover stars, Laila and Logan Ireland, a trans military couple who aren’t letting Trump’s trans ban disrupt their love or derail their lives.
Our relationship also reflects the movement in that we have had rights granted and then stripped away, more than once. Politicians in places like Tennessee are trying to legally take this right away from us again, but we’ll keep fighting.
So embrace love when you find it. Make your special day yours and your loved one’s alone. Nothing will take that away.
DIANE ANDERSON-MINSHALL is the Editorial Director of The Advocate. Follow her on Twitter @DeliciousDiane.