We were gathered there that day... "to celebrate not only their wedding, but to inaugurate their marriage based on their long and happy relationship."
My brother Ian and his partner Sean were married in a beautiful, thoughtful and intimate ceremony at our aunt and uncle's house overlooking the city of San Francisco last Saturday. To be fair, I have not been to many weddings, but based on my experiences, this one was different.
While most weddings are momentous occasions -- the joining and expanding of families is generally a big deal -- this one had an air of history in the making, an air of the completion of an insurmountable task, an air of gratefulness and relief that I had never experienced before.
Last summer Ian and Sean were forcibly separated as Sean was required to leave the country after finishing his PhD at UC Berkeley. Because gay marriage was not recognized by the federal government, Ian could not sponsor Sean for citizenship. Even though they had been in a relationship for eight years, when his student visa expired, Sean was effectively kicked out of the country. Sean returned to the UK and Ian stayed in Berkeley.
To think that two people who love each other were separated because of their sexuality and because of other peoples' prejudice is disgusting and heart wrenching. Their lives and relationship were in a state of angst and unknown, as Sean's returning to the States depended on a professorship, or the Supreme Court decision of DOMA, for which we all waited anxiously.
On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled DOMA unconstitutional. As I jumped for joy on the deck of the boat in a very remote part of northern Australia, Ian called Sean in Europe, and they asked each other to marry the other. The ruling of DOMA is one of the most influential court decisions of our generation. Never has a Supreme Court decision made such an immediate impact on my family and friends. We were all elated (and fxxk anybody who wasn't!).
Sean reentered the country and he and Ian planned a small ceremony at our aunt and uncle's house. While they would have rather waited until summer to have a big, outdoor wedding and invite all family and friends, the urgency of the situation required them to tie the knot ASAP. Thus, the small celebration last Saturday.
I have heard it said that your wedding day is the happiest day of your life, though until last Saturday I had not really believed it. But when I saw Ian and Sean beaming at one another, on cloud ten, I began to believe. Because as I said before, this was not just any wedding. This was a wedding that would not have been recognized by the United States six months earlier. And perhaps because nobody took this momentous occasion for granted, because everybody in attendance recognized that they too were a part of this historical occasion, the day felt surreal.
Ian and Sean said their vows in Ellen and Michael's living room as the setting sun cast a golden glow over the city of San Francisco. We laughed, we cried, we praised the powers that be for the opportunity to witness these two people, so deeply in love, have their love recognized by the legal institution of marriage.
And so, this concludes a harrowing story -- with a happy ending -- which in turn creates a new, happy beginning.