Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Joan & Linda
From The Daily Times, Delaware County, PA; written by Timothy Logue:
On an overcast and drizzly afternoon under an overhang outside a Portland, Ore., courthouse, a Havertown couple celebrated their 21-year anniversary with the exchange of wedding vows. "I can’t even express the beauty of it," Joan Mayer said in a phone interview from Multnomah County. "I’m a happily married woman. It’s unbelievable!"
"I’m feeling wonderful and a little numb," said Mayer’s longtime partner, Linda Gilvear. "I’m having a hard time believing this is really happening."
So are attorney generals, state Supreme Court members, presidential candidates and defenders of heterosexual marriage, all of whom have watched thousands of same-sex couples secure marriage licenses in recent weeks.
Mayer, 50, and Gilvear, 58, said the recent news out of California, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey and Oregon pushed them to do something they otherwise wouldn’t have.
"Once we made the commitment to each other, having a piece of paper didn’t mean much," Mayer said. "But now it’s 20 years later and we are getting to the stage in our lives when you have to deal with a lot of critical issues."
Over time, their conversations became peppered with issues like inheritance taxes, Social Security benefits, hospital visitation and the right to make medical decisions for one another.
"The most important thing about marriage to us is the legal rights that come with it," Mayer said. "If we just wanted to have a service, we could have done it a long time ago."
Mayer, who sells memberships for a fitness and country club, and Gilvear, a former fund-raiser for the University of Pennsylvania and soon-to-be reading specialist, privately committed themselves to one another 21 years ago Wednesday. They have spent 19 of those years in their Havertown home.
The couple’s initial plan was to fly to San Francisco, where Mayor Gavin Newsom had given the go-ahead to grant marriage licenses to gay couples.
That blueprint fell by the wayside when the California Supreme Court ordered the San Francisco County Clerk’s Office to stop issuing same-sex licenses. Before the court issued its temporary ruling, more than 4,000 couples tied the knot between Feb. 12 and March 11.
"Those plane tickets went out the window," Mayer said. "If we wanted to follow through, it had to be Oregon."
Luckily, one thing Gilvear and Mayer didn’t have trouble securing was a minister.
"I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this," said the Rev. Kent Matthies of the Unitarian Society of Germantown. "This is something they really deserve."
Talking on Mayer’s cell phone shortly after officiating his first same-sex marriage, Matthies said he witnessed "a ton of enthusiasm and excitement mixed with a tangible sense of urgency."
The Unitarian Universalist Association passed a resolution 20 years ago that stated its ministers could officiate same-sex ceremonies.
"There’s a movement out here to recall the county councilperson who made these marriages possible, so nobody is sure how long this process will be allowed to continue," Matthies said. "I think everyone who has been a part of this feels like they are making history."
Whether that history will translate into any tangible benefit once Gilvear and Mayer return to Havertown is another matter entirely.
In 1996, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a law that defines marriage as a civil contract between a man and a woman. It also states that same-sex marriages from other states would not be recognized.
"We have always been open and honest about our relationship and (Havertown) has been a wonderful place to live," Mayer said. "Having a marriage license -- an official document -- gives us firmer ground to stand on if we should have to challenge the law."
Multnomah County, which includes Portland, has issued more than 2,500 same-sex licenses since March 3. The decision to do so came after county commissioners determined it would be unconstitutional to deny homosexuals a fundamental right such as marriage.
The America Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed a suit on behalf of gay couples whose marriages were not recognized by the state’s Office of Vital Statistics.
From the sound of their voices, Gilvear and Mayer seemed not the least bit concerned about that legal challenge or what Pennsylvania law had to say about their marriage license.
"There was a couple out front of the courthouse who shot some video for us, and another couple handed us some flowers," Mayer said. "The license is paid for -- $60 cash. All that’s left now is a beautiful dinner with our minister and a big ‘thank you’ party when we get back home for all the people who have supported us."