Prop. 8: Court Postpones Weddings, But Not This One

Steve Hall and author. Marriage Number 2: The Impulse.

En Español

Proposition 8 backers managed to silence wedding bells ringing this week when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Monday to their request to stay the August 4 ruling by Chief U.S. Judge Vaughn Walker.

Walker’s ruling would have permitted weddings as early as Wednesday. Now those have been put off until at least the end of the year. Missionite Danny Della Lana, burned twice by court gyrations, had already decided to wait, and wrote about his decision for Mission Loc@l.

I never planned on getting married next week. Neither did my boyfriend.

The truth is, we already got married — twice — to each other.

The first was in Hawaii and featured us, an officiator and a hungover hula dancer/ukulele player who reeked of stale beer and cigarettes. This was 12-plus years ago, during that sliver of time when we thought Hawaiian marriages between same-sex partners might actually have a legal leg.

Wedding number one: hope in Hawaii

But that wasn’t about a legal union. Rather, it was a step — a big step — for my partner Steve and I to declare our commitment. It also had the unintended effect of uniting my family’s acceptance of Steve. My rocket scientist father (literally) phoned me to say that they had canceled their trip to Cocoa Beach to watch the space shuttle launch so they could attend our ceremony. I was flattered and even emotional, so it killed me to tell him and mom that they weren’t invited. Here’s why: Our intention was to affirm our commitment to each other, and we wanted to do it privately. Looking back, I think that internal homophobia may have even played a part. Perhaps we didn’t feel that it was worthy of their attendance. I actually look back on that decision with a small amount of regret.

OK, fast-forward to Saturday, February 14, 2004. Our friends David and Boone called to say that they were in line to get married. Did we want to come down and celebrate with them? We were going to Macy’s anyway, and City Hall was on the way. Why not?

When we arrived, they weren’t just in line — they were five feet from the door!

We hadn’t planned it, but we looked at each other and thought, “Let’s get married!” We phoned our parents and told them that we were engaging in “civil disobedience.”

Immediately my dad asked if we were getting married. I said yes and he asked to speak to Steve to congratulate him. After informing our parents, we frantically dialed friends to see who could attend the ceremony that would take place in the next hour. By chance, two of our closest friends happened to pick up, and they rushed over. (Hours later we were struck with remorse — not for marrying, but for cutting in line! To do penance, Steve and I drove back to City Hall that night with cases of water and cookies to hand out to those in line to get hitched the next day.)

Months later, a judge nullified our marriage and the 4,000 other weddings that took place.

In retrospect it felt like a shotgun wedding. And that’s why I’m not doing it again.

It’s not that we’re waiting for something better to come along. We’ve been together 15 years and neither of us is going anywhere. Rather, we want to control the way we get married. (And to write our submission for the New York Times Weddings & Celebrations section.)

La familia: The author, son Robert and partner Steve Hall

When same-sex marriage is permanently legal, Steve and I want not a civil ceremony but a WEDDING  — a big, blow-out event with our families and friends, not a rag-tag partial list of those who could make it or happened to be in the area.

Along with the legal right to marry must come the social dignity to celebrate this amazing rite with whomever you choose, whenever you choose. Otherwise it feels like a low self-esteem event attended by the B list and those otherwise unoccupied at the moment — not that anyone at either of my weddings was B-list. Still, the rush of it made it feel lame and undignified. After all, how many wedding gifts have our communities given out over the years? It’s finally payback time!

In the meantime, we have put all our property in an irrevocable trust that affords us many of the same rights and responsibilities of a marriage. Everything we own and raise, from our car to our son, is jointly held. That makes us worth more to each other dead than alive, so we didn’t enter into this lightly.

When it does happen, the third time will be a charm because it will stick. I can wait another year or five for the rest of the country to catch up with us. It’s going to happen, and those who are trying to hold it back are preventing our species from evolving.

So, Steve, will you marry me — again — in five years?

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  1. Steve

    Yes, Danny, I’ll marry you again.

  2. Strong essay. Great job!

  3. Lovely, strong, moral article. My very best wishes to you both – we miss you!

  4. Sarah

    Oh, thank you for such a thoughtful and moving column. I teared up as I read it. May civil rights advance SOON so that you (and all) can have the big family and community celebration of your marriage that you deserve.

  5. Steve Della Lana

    Thanks, Danny, for getting the word out. My partner of 5 years and I in South Carolina, cannot even BEGIN to imagine our state to recognize us as equal partners under the law. We hosted our own commitment ceremony at which 96 close friends and relatives (including you, Steve and Robert) were in attendance. Our wedding was everything a wedding should be– a celebration of our love and commitment to one another,shared by those we love. Still to this day, my parents can refer to it only as “the party”.

    As a state employee, I was told via a gatekeeper at our HR office at the institution of higher learning where I have been a devoted employee for the last ten years, that if my partner were female, he would be able to be on my health plan. What those who vote against Prop 8 and stand against same sex marriage do not understand is that we are denied our place at the table. One would think that in a state in which Jim Crow laws have denied an entire minority group their place in society, a lesson might have been learned. This in LIVING memory of most of our state legislators. Then as now, only when the Federal government FORCES true equality, guranteed in the Constitution of our great country, will we be truly free.

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