Love and War

Gay Americans Won a Court Victory. Now Comes the Fight to Wed.

Bringing a marriage suit is complex and expensive—the current case in New Jersey has a team of five lawyers and is expected to last up to three years. It's the kind of process almost guaranteed to discourage grassroots activism, and it has. Aside from the occasional sit-in at a marriage bureau, there has been scant protest on the issue, and scant attempt to organize any. But for a movement to capitalize on legal victories, it needs a militant presence. Within months, gay leaders could be fighting a 50-state battle over the Federal Marriage Amendment, a raging brushfire of a campaign that would require millions of dollars and thousands upon thousands of committed, outspoken volunteers.


While this great constitutional question plays out, everyday couples and families are conducting their lives with only the slimmest legal protections. Canada has opened a door, and people have started to pour in. One worker at Toronto's Civic Wedding Chambers described scenes of middle-aged men with flowers in their lapels crying, of ministers crying, of attendants crying, all of them going through box after box of Kleenex. The chambers have been shoehorning couples into the schedule, accommodating everyone as fast as they can.

Susan Searing married Christine Jenkins, her partner of 18 years, while the two were in town for a librarians' convention. Searing wore a blue linen dress, Jenkins a rayon shirtwaisted dress with a floral Arts and Crafts print and a red hat. "We want everything any other married couple has," says Searing, who lives with her partner in Illinois. "American law will catch up, and when it does, we'll be ready."

Until then, America's gay families remain precariously perched on the edge of the legal frontier. Hillary Goodridge, who with her partner, Julie Goodridge, is a lead plaintiff in the Massachusetts case, says she had to finagle her way into the neonatal intensive care unit after Julie gave birth to their daughter, Annie. "When you have a kid, it just raises the stakes so much," Hillary says.

Annie is now a grade-schooler, and though the Goodridges think their chances in court are good, they don't know what to tell her if they're dealt an unexpected defeat. "It's incredibly nerve-racking," Julie says. "There's only so much a seven-year-old can understand."


Sidebar:
"The Tax Man Must Be Straight" by Laura Conaway

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