Monday, November 4, 2013

Family is as Family Does

Nichole and I got married last week. Okay, so we've been together 11yrs. In fact, 11yrs to the day (10-26-2002) we held a grand commitment ceremony. We stood before family, friends and God to declare our love and commitment. Back then, that was all we could do. Same-sex marriages were not "legal" then. Instead we were allowed to register as Domestic Partners. Separate and almost equal. 

Objectors to the idea of same-sex marriages continually stand by the idea that commitments of partnership are the same "after all, they grant most of the same rights as straight couple marriages." Most is not the same. I don't know of any married straight couple who has to file separate legal declarations to ensure their rights of spousal benefits, survivor benefits, medical power of attorney, or spousal privilege in legal matters. I don't know of any straight married couple who must prepare (but not file) an extra joint federal tax return in order to accurately file their joint state taxes.  These are a few examples.

Now that I am off of the legal soap box, lets get back to the wedding. In 2002 we held a large celebration. Several extended family members joined us in our moment of joy. Aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters - but no  parents. It hurt like hell that our parents wouldn't join us in one of the most important events of our lives. Like dutiful children, we sucked in our hurts, forgave and moved on.

I can't speak for Nichole's hurts, but I must put mine out in the open.

In 2002 my parents stood on their principals and chose not to attend. According to my father, the ceremony was not sanctioned by the church (and therefore not by God), nor was it a "marriage." In fact, my father accused us of just "playing house."  My oldest brother attended out of a sense of duty to support me. Duty, not joy or love. His wife refused to attend and they forbade their children from attending.We were told by my brother and his wife that they did not want their children exposed to such an event - as if we were dirty, salacious abominations.

On the other side, my sister and other brother did attend - genuine in their celebration of our love. His children attended and to this day they remain "normal" and unscathed by our commitment.

Okay... there is the history. History, as we know repeats itself. Mid year 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld challenges to California Proposition 8. Prop 8 was an anti same-sex marriage declaration. It was narrowly passed by vote and promptly challenged as unconstitutional.  I don't know or understand all the legal mumbo-jumbo but the bottom line is that the U.S. Supreme Court has made it possible for homosexuals to legally marry in California. Now we finally have truly EQUAL rights to marry.

As it happened, our anniversary of commitment (10-26) fell on a Saturday this year. Nichole and I decided it fit perfectly for a marriage ceremony. We planned a small ceremony this time and sent out only a few notices to family and friends.

We knew that extended family from out of state would not attend. It was never expected (although one could always hope).  Besides, we knew these were the same family member who have always stood with us and who attended the original commitment. What came as a crashing heart rending blow was the fact that NOT ONE SINGLE BLOOD FAMILY MEMBER ATTENDED!

My father, brothers and their families live barely one hour from us. Father originally told us he wouldn't attend, then he surprised us to tears by saying he would. "The church has softened its position and the marriage is legal." I was ecstatic. Up until the day before our wedding Father declared his intent to join us. Then, as he often does these days, he decided he wasn't up to it. He didn't feel good and wouldn't be there for me once again in my important time.  I wish he'd just maintained his first impulse to not come, rather than raise my hopes.

The younger of my brothers, and his children - all who'd attended the original ceremony - each sent in their regrets that they were out of town an unable to attend. But my oldest brother and his wife - well they too had a convenient other thing to attend. I guess something more important than a sisters wedding.... worse still, is the fact that their three children, all of whom I've supported through their major events and such, didn't even have the courtesy to send their regrets! Because these three had been forbidden 11yrs ago, I made sure that each one received their own invitation so that they could feel free to make their own decision.

Now I know where I stand.

Okay so back to the good stuff. I want you all to know that despite the heartbreak, MY wedding to Nichole is the greatest event of my life. Being legally married makes us a complete family now. I have blood relatives, extended family, and I have my family.

My family consists of:

Nichole - my WIFE
Isaac - my oldest son
Nathan - my middle son
Austin - my youngest son
Lisa - because everyone needs an Auntie Lisa.

I am thrilled to have this family and the friends who all showed their love and support for us on our special day.  To those far away who couldn't attend - I love you all and thank you all for your kind words and support. I know you were there in spirit.

I will never forget my wedding day. It will stand as one of the happiest days of my life. It will also stand as a reminder that family is not about blood. Family is as family does.


  1. Maria, That was so beautiful written and I am so sorry your blood family was unable to put their own beliefs aside and come to support and love you and Nicole. You know your family is very dear to me as well as you are. Please know that George and I are very happy for you and Nicole. It has been a long time in coming. Ann

  2. I am sorry that your "blood" family chose not to attend... not only because it hurt you and Nichole, but also because they missed out on being part of a wonderful day of joy. The fact that so many members of our church family in their 60s and 70s (and even 80s) attended is proof that one's chronological age is not the indicator of closeminded-ness. For those who thought that they didn't "need" to attend because they had already attended your commitment ceremony, it WAS different... I know I was not the only one present who got goosebumps when the clergy declared "by the power vested in me BY THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, I PRONOUNCE YOU MARRIED!!!!" Thank you for allowing us to be present on this most joyous of days! -- Janet

  3. Many congratulations, Maria. And thanks for sharing your heartfelt thoughts. As always, a beautiful piece of writing. --Kara