Like many Americans, I have been cruising blogs and news sites all week looking for updates from the U. S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) about their decisions and discussion about United States v. Windsor, which challenges the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Hollingsworth v. Perry, challenging California’s Proposition 8. I’ve read transcripts, looked at courtroom sketches, and then, for levity, I’ll look at the hilarious signs bobbing on Capitol Hill.
Edith Windsor’s case, a glaring manifestation of what’s wrong with DOMA: Windsor was forced to pay $363,053 in estate taxes after her partner passed away, is in the hands of the Supreme Court and could set one of the most important precedents of my life to date. It’s well past time for this woman’s forty-two year relationship with her partner to be recognized by the government and for so many of my friends and family to share the rights I have.
I’m optimistically waiting, for that bit of law to finally land with a thud in the SCOTUS wastebasket.
Watching so closely, I’ve become especially ignited about the same-sex marriage issue this week – perhaps slightly more enthusiastically than others as I’ve been photographing weddings in San Antonio for the past three years. Whether a same-sex commitment ceremony or a heterosexual “I do,” I am hired to be with couples at their happiest. It’s a job I love doing and a job I’m happy to continue doing for everyone.
By now I’m not sure how many weddings I’ve photographed, but it’s fair to say I know a few things about a wedding day. They are lovely, chaotic, emotional, surprising, sometimes expensive and usually fun. In the time I spend with a couple and in the images I make, I see that a marriage ceremony is one of the most redeeming of human experiences and, perhaps, the most elated a person can feel.
At the risk of being a complete sap I’ll also tell you this: weddings are powerful and significant expressions of love. Most weekends of the year, I see couples commit to each other. And I tear up right along with them. It never fails. Each and every time I’m a little swept away by the human capacity to share ourselves.
When they exchange vows and say “I do,” I see brides and grooms look surprised, too – they are happy, weepy, and amazed. It flies by so quickly, and it’s beautiful. With many of my couples, I’ve seen the sweet, quiet moments when they stand together and share whispers about their luck– so lucky to have found each other. As heterosexuals, there has never been a question of whether or not they could have a husband or wife, only whether or not they would find someone they’d want to be married to.
Unless this law is overturned, marriage and the whirl of a wedding will remain a privilege and not a right. While we wait for the federal government to recognize all unions, several states have taken the initiative. Not surprisingly, Texas isn’t one of those states. However, the City of San Antonio gives full benefits to employees’ domestic partners, same-sex or not, and their dependents.
We should be proud of San Antonio’s progress, but we have a long way to go. Our city has always had a willingness to evolve and has been great at investing in and supporting its citizens. We live well here, and in most social circles and organizations, diversity is welcomed. That said, the discrepancy between the progress of cities and states across the nation and the federal inability to change is crushing.
I’m baffled we are still debating this and glad that another round of equality is on the horizon. I’m celebrating this change prematurely but with confidence, like so many people I know. One day soon weddings will be for everyone. It may not be tomorrow, but it could be later this year. Marriage, that formative decision and major life event, will be yours to have – no matter what gender you and your partner identify as.
As soon the federal government overturns DOMA, I’m hoping to find a wonderful same-sex couple that could use the gift of free wedding photography. For all of their patience, whoever they are, and because I want to see it finally happen under these big Texas stars: That one’s on me.
Christine Sargologos is a wedding and portrait photographer shooting throughout Texas and the United States. She believes that in most directions there are brilliant details and remarkable stories worth recording. Her work and contact information can be found at www.sargologos.com.