The first time my wife and I took our vows was in Massachusetts in 2005. Same-sex marriage had been legal for nearly two years in that state, while 11 others had just passed constitutional amendments to ban it.
On that day in late September, we stood barefooted in the sand at the edge of Cape Cod Bay in Provincetown — one of the gayest zip codes in the country — surrounded by a beloved collection of family and friends. We read our self-penned vows and cried. We each slipped on a shoe for the traditional breaking of the glass (light bulbs wrapped in linen napkins) and were declared married by a soft-spoken Boston rabbi. Then we all celebrated for hours under a dramatic white tent that sagged at its corners from the winds of Ophelia — a tropical storm that had loomed and threatened that morning but had died out, to our great relief, before it could reach us.
There were so many reasons why our love felt like a political act that day.
The second time we took our vows was to renew them, this past Saturday. We were once again in Provincetown. Marriage equality had been the law of the land in this country for more than two years (despite some people, particularly those in Texas and Kentucky, seeming hell-bent on rolling back history).
This time, we stood on a bluff overlooking the town and the bay, in the shadow of the 252-foot-tall granite Pilgrim Monument, a fitting symbol of freedom. We wore sandals, twinning white tees, and pastel shorts, and were surrounded mostly by strangers, as we had chosen to take part, rather impulsively, in a mass lesbian wedding. It was the second annual Bride Pride, an event that debuted in 2016 with 53 couples as the biggest all-lesbian group wedding in history — as far as anyone was aware. Saturday was nearly a match, with 43 couples aged 25 to 80, from 14 states, including Texas, Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, and Kansas, either renewing their vows or saying them for the very first time.
This time, the political aspect was a built-in part of the whole affair. “Provincetown is the perfect backdrop for a wedding. It’s filled with stories of love, equality and acceptance…” noted the website for Bride Pride, organized by Roux guesthouse owners and spouses Ilene Mitnick and Alli Baldwin. “And, what better way to say ‘I do’ than surrounded by your tribe in the state where gay marriage was first made legal?”
Saying our vows this time, however, somehow felt very personal, which surprised me, as I’d never given much thought — or even credence — to the whole idea of renewing them.
But a lot can happen in 12 years of marriage. In our case, there’s been death (my mother-in-law’s), cancer (my wife’s), and, blessedly, pregnancy (mine), resulting in the birth of our daughter, who was just a far-off hope and dream back in 2005. Reaffirming your vows, as I now understand, can be a powerfully grounding and tearjerking experience.
Our daughter is now 8 — a bright and funny, beautiful joy — and part of why I wanted to take part in Bride Pride to begin with. She’s heard the story of our wedding so many times, and gazed longingly at the photos, and this seemed like such a wonderful way for her to feel the strength of her parents’ commitment to one another. Because in these times of rolling back rights and increasingly bold hate crimes and the current administration’s embracing of both a vice president who has said that gay marriage would lead to “societal collapse” and a housing secretary who has compared being gay to pedophilia and incest, why not show our daughter how unstoppable we are in our love?
It seemed like a good idea, anyway. But seeing a bunch of lesbians getting married was apparently a most boring event for our daughter — and, I’d venture to guess, would be for the majority of other 8-year-olds living in 2017. Instead of gazing at her moms with tears of joy, she sat on the ground at our feet, pouting in the heat and rolling her eyes at the live drum circle, asking, “When can we leave?” She finally perked up when I darted across the lawn and turned cartwheels with her, and when it was time to go, we jumped into the bay together for a giggly afternoon swim.
Because to our daughter, love is love. It always has been. And unlike probably every woman standing alongside the monument that day, she had never known the idea of a lesbian wedding to be anything other than a standard occasion.
For her moms, it was a privilege worth repeating.
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