There is a tender moment in the trailer for the upcoming documentary Married and Counting where Stephen Mosher turns to his lover, Pat Dwyer, and with soulful eyes, tells him how he feels about his own father not wanting to attend their upcoming wedding ceremony. “If I am a criminal, he would come visit me in jail,” Mosher reflects, “but as a happy, free gay man, he won’t come to my wedding.”
It’s a revealing admission, and one that suggests that the road ahead for marriage equality may still seem like a long and twisted one. But that hasn’t deterred Dwyer and Mosher from making a bold statement: That same-sex marriage really ought to be legalized in all states. True, many have already picked up that bullhorn to shout that message loud and proud, but nobody seems to getting it across in quite the unique way these two are. Months before their upcoming 25th anniversary as committed partners (April 26), they gave birth to a provocative idea: why not marry each other in every state where gay marriage is legal? Better still, why not shoot a documentary about it?
Dubbed Married and Counting, the doc is being filmed by Allan Piper, who directed the award-winning indie comedy, Starving Artist, and is now the Lead Editor on the shows What Not To Wear and Tim Gunn’s Guide To Style.
“Part of the motivation to do this was to make a political statement,” Piper says of the work-in-progress. “Pat and Stephen started doing things on their own, and then when I heard about the project, I thought I would love to be involved in this, because it is so important. As a straight, divorced man, it’s beautiful to see two people that love each other so much and have really been so true to the principles of marriage for so many years.”
Since December of last year, the “marriage tour” has hit Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts, California (see below) and Connecticut. Each wedding has taken on a certain vibe and has been filled with the couple’s close friends, and friends of friends. Mostly, thoughts about relationships and love are shared.
Meanwhile. Dwyer, an actor, and Mosher, a photographer whose popular coffee-table page-turner, “Sweater Book,” continues to generate buzz, now have their sights set on their anniversary wedding, which takes place on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. on April 26.
That would be the seventh wedding for the duo. They plan to marry again in the next state that legalizes same-sex marriage. As for the doc, Piper plans to wrap up it later this year.
The Advocate: Fill us in on the backstory. What sparked the decision for you two to launch ‘the wedding tour?’
Stephen Mosher: It came from a wise crack at a party one night. The subject of marriage equality came up. New York had taken it off the table. Everyone was talking about the fact that, well, it wasn’t going to happen in New York this year, and I looked at Pat, and I said, ‘You know, we should just go to every single state where gay marriage is legal and get married there.’ And then Pat said, ‘And then we can sue the Unites States government for the money we spend doing it.’ And everybody laughed and that was the joke for a while.
Pat Dwyer: But the seed got planted.
How long ago was that?
Pat: That was probably a year ago. Prior to that we had been wondering how to celebrate our 25th anniversary [April 26]. We thought we could have a big party or that same-sex marriage would be legal here in New York, but between New York not having marriage equality, we had to rethink the idea.
Stephen: We thought we could do one state a month, that way we’d have a wedding every month up until the 26th of April—Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut and California. California was a protest wedding because they had legalized gay marriage, and then they didn’t have it, and then they had it for a minute, and then they didn’t have it. One day, they will make up their mind and have it again.
Pat: We also had very close friends that we consider family in California. Plus, we decided that wedding would be a ‘protest’ against Prop 8.
Tell us about the experience—of creating a marriage ceremony again and again. What has that felt like and what have you two learned?
Pat: It’s been an affirmation of all the years we spent together. It’s been trips down memory lane. Truly … this has been the most romantic, most beautiful trip in the history of the world. And that’s been the truth for me.
Stephen: The last few months have been an adventure. It’s been very romantic, but what’s been so amazing about all this, has been the support we are being shown by friends and family, and by strangers. At every turn, some thing wonderful happens that tells us that we are doing the right thing. When strangers give you gifts — our wedding rings for Vermont, for instance, were given to us by the clerk in the store. When she heard they were going to be our wedding rings, she said, ‘Well, you have to let me give them to you.’ Our plane tickets—any time we traveled— had been given to us by friends who used their frequent flier miles. We’ve had strangers toss weddings in their home. The day that I proposed to Pat, a bunch of kids holding signs in Union Square that read, Free Hugs, saw me down on my knee, and ran over and said, ‘Oh my God—did you just get engaged, can we hug you please?’ They turned out to be Californians who had moved out to NYU giving out free hugs as their protest against Prop 8. So, everywhere we’ve turned, there have been affirmations of love and support for what we have been doing, even from family members that don’t really believe in what we are doing.
Can you talk about that—about family? Because you both mentioned you come from conservative backgrounds. Has your family been supportive?
Stephen: My mother has supported this from the word go. A few years ago I said to her that Pat and I are getting married, and would she like to get involved, she said, ‘Oh my god, yes.’ My nieces, nephew, brother—all supportive. My sister hasn’t expressed support or opposition. My father refused to attend any of the weddings. During a recent trip to Texas [where he lives], we spent 20 minutes talking about it, during which we spoke to each other as grown-ups, as men. And I told him that in three years, he shouldn’t beat himself up for missing my wedding and that I wouldn’t hold it against him. And he told me that he was just trying to find a way to love me and still be who he is.
Take me back. How did you two first meet?
Pat: We met at our college theater department back in Texas. We were both attending North Texas State University. And we were both majoring in theater. It was the first week of school. I was in the green room. Stephen waked in and I was completely bowled over. I was a complete victim of love at first sight.
Nice. At times, though, it feels as if in this world we live, people are allowed to freely hate ‘anybody’—wars happen all the time; hate crimes persist—so why do you think there is such strong resistance to ‘loving’ whoever you want?
Pat: In the wake of two recent horrific gay bashings that had taken place, one where somebody died, the comment is that people are objecting to love based on an idea fostered by close-minded men, or hateful speech that has come down through the ages. People have railed against homosexuals time upon time. In the Christian canon, it’s the worst possible thing you can be.
Stephen: The thing is, we have these political and religious leaders that seek power, and the only way to get power is to tell the masses what’s wrong with their lives and who’s to blame for it. So these leaders pick various groups; point their fingers and they say, ‘These are the people that are making your life so bad, and if you give me your support, I will make them go away.’ I think a lot of the time, it isn’t even hatred. A lot of the time, the leaders don’t care what we do. In the past, they didn’t care what the blacks did. They didn’t care what women did. Leaders of society don’t care what the ‘minorities’ do. They just need those minorities to get their votes. So there’s a big dichotomy here because the truth isn’t being spoken but the masses are all going along following. I’m not politically savvy, but that’s the way I feel about it. So, when people pop up like flower children from the ’70s wanting to spread ‘love,’ the masses are confused, and they want to go for the negative as opposed to the positive.
Pat: People have an innate fear of what they view as ‘change.’ That’s where a lot of this current backlash is coming from. They're saying [ about same-sex marriage] that it’s a ‘change.’ Even people who are for it are saying, ‘that’s too big of a change right now—let’s just make it civil unions or have other compromises.’ As opposed to saying, ‘This is a change, we are going to move forward—we are a page of history and let’s turn it. Now!’
Stephen: One of the things that came up in my talks with my father when I was explaining to him why same-sex marriage is important and why I want it … I told him that it’s no longer a crime to be gay. What we have is a group of legal citizens telling another group of legal citizens: ‘We have this but you can’t have this.’ When I told that to my father, he didn’t say anything, but he nodded his head yes.
You’ve been together a quarter of a century now. What is the secret to maintaining a healthy love relationship?
Pat: Do whatever Stephen says. Stop laughing, I mean it. Seriously. Being in love makes it work and realizing that there are times when you have to fall in love with each other all over again. And knowing that you can, every day, really, do just that. And … communication. Not holding stuff in, but getting it out and knowing you are safe to do so. But when all else fails … do whatever Stephen says.
Stephen: Our relationship works because of a magical combination of humor, openness and absolute honesty, as well as the similarities we share and the differences we bring to one another; not to mention the fact that we are besotted by one another. We are completely enamored of each other. We are each others' best friends. And we dance—every day!
What's the most interesting thing each of you has learned about love?
Pat: That having someone put you first and you doing the same for them, is the recommended daily allowance of validation one should have to be happy and healthy.
Stephen: Pat has shown me that if someone as wonderful as he is can love me, so can I. And that … with love, anything is possible. It's much more important to concern yourself with loving than it is to concern yourself with being loved.