Updated: Apr 1
If you asked a dozen LGBTQ couples about the importance of marriage, you’d get a dozen different responses, but somehow they’d all be true. The thread of marriage equality is woven into the fabric of our community. It is a couple’s testament of love before church and/or state. It’s politically and legally important, and on some level defines our community’s sense of equality. It provides spouses the right to see loved ones in the hospital when they are ill, or the right to inherit a partner’s pension when they die. But legal rights, as crucial as they are, are not the only reason many couples tie the knot. I discussed marriage with three married couples to find out why they decided to get married and what it means to them – personally and as members of greater society.
Joe and Vinny: Marrying Your Best Friend
For Joe Reusch and Vinny Izzo, marriage was a simple stop along the path of the love they
shared. “We had both just gotten out of relationships when we met. We weren’t looking to fall in love.We became friends, and that friendship just kind of grew and multiplied, but we didn’t rush it,” Vinny says. Joe, a board member at AIDS Care Ocean State, and Vinny, a dedicated volunteer at Drag Bingo, can’t underestimate the value of being married. Like many couples, they had run- ins at hospitals and had been negatively affected by thorny legal issues before being legally married. They applied for their marriage license right after marriage equality passed. They were in no hurry to have a grand wedding. It simply wasn’t their style. “Our friends and family knew we would do it, and we knew we would do it too,” they say. Their friend Chuck officiated we would do it, and we knew we would do it too,” they say. Their friend Chuck officiated their marriage in their backyard.“I posted a photo of a diamond ring on Facebook,” Vinny says, “and everybody was chiming in, excited!” For them, marriage offered the chance to be a stronger part of their community, and solidified their already strong bond.
Emily and Stephanie: Following Tradition, and Finding Peace of Mind
Emily Douglas and Stephanie Storch were in their 30s when Marriage Equality passed in Rhode Island. It had been a battle that the couple was happy to participate in on both a philosophical and practical level. Emily says, “I had moved up to New England from Kentucky, and the social climate really allowed me to be more open and expressive of who I am. Getting involved with organizations like RI Pride and marriage equality were definitely a part of that….We both have some old-fashioned feelings about marriage, so when Marriage Equality passed, we could get married as part of the natural evolution of our feelings.” She’s also glad she and her partner have all the legal protections that marriage provides them and their two children. “I think about it from time to time, but it won’t define my marriage,” Emily tells me. Hard-won legal and social protections afforded by marriage equality can still be taken away. But for the couple, marriage is not an outward-facing issue. It is what they share and what gives them peace.
Frank and Tony: A Celebration of Thanks
It’s hard to think of a couple who could bring more to this conversation than Tony Caparco and Frank Ferri, who have been together since the 1970s. Frank served as a RI State Representative from 2007 until 2015, and previously served as chair of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, the organization that led the campaign for same-sex marriage in RI to victory. “There was a lecture at Rhode Island College that we both attended on the subject of gay marriage back in 1976, explaining how it was, in fact, possible. We weren’t sure if we’d see it in our lifetime, but it laid out a very reasonable argument. It was eye-opening,” Frank tells me. As years passed, and the AIDS epidemic became the focus of the LGBTQ community, it seemed like marriage equality would never happen. But the driven and self-aware couple was, like the LGBTQ community at large, ready to demand equal protections under the law, arguing that they were more vulnerable to catastrophes like the HIV epidemic because they were shut out of legal and social institutions such as marriage. As the argument matured through the 1990s and early 2000s, Frank and Tony noticed that society was becoming more open to LGBTQ issues.The dream of equality was approaching a tipping point, and needed a little push to become reality. Frank and Tony were ready to push. Frank successfully campaigned to become a state representative and made marriage his focus. The RI legislature could not ignore blatant inequality for long. Frank tells me that the issue goes to the core of his being.“Who I am is my equality.” Frank and Tony were married August 1, 2013 – the day marriage equality became legal in RI. Their wedding served as a thank-you to those who fought so hard to achieve same-sex marriage, including politicians, friends, family, and volunteers.