Jane & Tami Marquardt have been major donors to (and subscribers of) Plan-B Theatre Company since 2001. Tami currently serves as the vice president of Plan-B Theatre Company’s board of trustees.
Somewhere between the sermon and the final chorus at the Ogden Unitarian Church that August Sunday morning in 1998, there was a traditional five minute period where people were invited to “greet your neighbor.” We found ourselves face to face in a casual greeting that launched us into an amazing friendship and love affair. Now, in August 2012, our relationship has been benchmarked with five attempts at the legal commitment called marriage. “Five?” “Why?” you may ask.
The background: We went to college in the late 60s and early 70s. Gay rights were not even much of a concept. Homosexuality was illegal in most states and was still diagnosed as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. As we each discovered our sexuality, we went through decades of discovering what it meant to love someone in secret; what it meant to not have our families recognized; what it meant to feel the fear and prejudice in our lives over and over. Such things as:
- Teaching high school in a neighboring town and fearing every day that I would lose my job if someone found out I was gay. Then going home every night and listening to my children’s stories of cruel comments and actions from their classmates because of my sexual orientation and my feeling of helplessness because I couldn’t take away their pain. And participating in creating and raising an AI baby only to have him taken away from me when he was 18 months old because I had no legal ties to him. (Tami)
- Building a law firm in the 70s and 80s, and trying to establish my credibility, while at the same time helping raise my partner’s 3 children. If our relationship became public, we worried that not only would she lose her joint custody rights, but that she might even lose visitation rights. And we weren’t sure what would happen to my law practice. Such was the state of the law in Utah at the time. (Jane)
The marriage journey: By 1999, we were clear that we wanted to build our future together. We were overjoyed at having found each other. We wanted everyone we knew to join us in our celebration. We wanted to participate in our lives and to relate to our families, friends and community in the most authentic way possible. And that meant as a couple, a legally recognized married couple. The public discourse had changed a lot since our youth; Hawaii had been debating marriage, Ellen had come out, Harvey Milk was everyone’s hero. To us, there was no question that we really meant it – our relationship was not a figment of anyone’s imagination. We were real flesh and blood people who wanted society to respect our family and our commitment to each other. (We also wouldn’t mind those+ plus legal benefits that the law gives automatically to legally married couples.)
We began talking about a commitment ceremony with our Unitarian minister, because by then the Unitarian Church had recognized the dignity of same-sex couples. As we planned or ceremony and party, lo and behold the State of Vermont became the first state to officially allow couples to enter into a civil union. We were thrilled – it wasn’t marriage – but it was a step. We were also sure some court or future legislature would soon repeal it, so we flew to Vermont in July of 2000 (the first month it became possible to get a civil union) in order to get that first state sanctioned license. Vermont was extremely beautiful–rolling out its lush green carpet to welcome us and ushering in the legal beginnings of marriage equality. When we actually stood in the courthouse in New Fane Vermont, reciting the words read to us by a justice of the peace, we were awestruck. It was just so validating to be recognized.
Like most married couples, we consider our religious/spiritual ceremony to be our real marriage. In Park City, on August 19, 2000, we peeked out the doors of our event to view our minister and our closest family and friends. The string quartet played the Pachelbel Canon and we were moved to see the guest list seated and awaiting our entrance. It was a beautiful evening and precious ceremony in which we read something we still regard as our marriage mantra:
A good relationship has a pattern like a dance…partners do not need
to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern…
intricate but free…no place for the possessive clutch…only the barest touch
in passing…arm in arm, face to face, back to back…moving to the same rhythm,
creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it. The joy of
creation…participation…living in the moment… in time with the
music…timelessness… (Anne Morrow Lindbergh – “Gift from the Sea”)
We were excited when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom decided that the City of San Francisco would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in February of 2004. We flew to San Francisco, got up early the next morning, and stood outside in a rainy line at the courthouse all day long. Clerks came by and told us to go home, that we were too far back to get in that day. We had nothing else to do, and we had to fly home that evening to go back to work, so we just kept standing in line. Finally, at 4pm, we were one of the last couples of the day who were admitted into the clerk’s office. We were delighted to participate in a brief marriage ceremony in the City Hall rotunda, and then return home that night. Unfortunately, we and the 4,000 other couples who had been able to obtain marriage licenses saw our marriages overturned later that year by the California courts.
We traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia in March of 2005 to attend a straight friend’s wedding. While there, it occurred to us that we could obtain our first legal marriage license. We quietly went to the licensing bureau and got the paperwork. They gave us a list of officiants from which we chose a gentleman named Mr. Dong. He said he was available and then told us his specialty was nude weddings in the park. That idea was slightly beyond our exhibitionistic preference. An interesting note was that at the point of entry into Canada, we were recognized as a couple – on one customs form. When we came back into our own country as a legally wed couple, we had to fill out separate entry forms. The U.S. customs agent said: “Sorry girls -as long as George Bush is in the White House, we cannot recognize you as a married couple.”
Just a few weeks ago, we traveled to New York where we presented our Canadian marriage certificate to the officials at the Manhattan Court House where they granted us a New York license – our first legal marriage license in our own country. Along with at least a hundred other diverse couples (mostly opposite-sex couples, but a few other same-sex couples), we took a number and stood in line after line until finally, we were pronounced Mawwwreid in a Brooklyn accent that was pure music to our ears!
What next? Today we feel married in most senses of the word. Our children, grandchildren and extended families treat us with respect and dignity. We have the same last name, we are on the same health insurance policy. Yet the journey for full recognition continues. If one of us dies tomorrow, the other will have zero survivor Social Security benefits and will pay estate taxes on what she inherits from the other. If one of us is injured, we have no guarantee we’ll be in a community that recognizes our relationship and will give the other hospital visitation privileges and the right to make medical decisions.
Just 14 years since we greeted each other as neighbors, astonishing gains have been made toward full equality for Gay Americans. Our world looks very different today. Seven states, the District of Columbia, and 11 foreign countries have legalized same sex marriage. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed. Fifty percent of Americans support gay marriage and the President of the United States has come out in public support of the right to marry. Most of the Fortune 500 businesses have employment non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Many people under 30 can’t believe that such discrimination ever existed.
Shall we say that the world only spins forward and we are on it for the entire ride to full EQUALITY.
We commend Dustin Lance Black in his poignant portrayal of showing how prejudice and fear have been put on trial and have lost! We are pleased to be part of Plan-B as they bring the Script-In-Hand Series reading of Black’s amazing play “8” to local light on August 4 & 5.
Plan-B Theatre Company’s Script-In-Hand Series reading of “8″ takes the stage August 4-5. A fundraiser for both Plan-B and the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the event boasts a cast of 20 and a post-show discussion with the playwright, Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black, and Congressman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts). Tickets and more info available here.