Big Girl and I were driving to school this morning when we heard familiar voices on the radio: “I, Jan, take you, Samantha, to be my wife.” “I, Samantha, take you, Jan, to be my wife.” We squealed with happiness, then shushed each other to hear the rest of the news.
The radio report went on to describe the large group wedding that had taken place at Maplewood’s town hall yesterday, the first day of marriage equality in New Jersey. Our friends Jan and Samantha had taken the new opportunity to get married, for the fifth time. Yup, the fifth time.
Wasn’t one time enough? Well, for most of us heteros it is. But we have never had to consider which rights and responsibilities came along with our marriage certificates, or whether we should bring along paperwork when presenting ourselves as a spouse in an official capacity, such as in a medical emergency.
Jan and Sam were college sweethearts like so many other college sweethearts. They met, dated for 18 months, then were engaged for about 18 months. So began their first two stops in marriage: a domestic partnership in New York around the same time as their big Jewish wedding with all the trimmings, also in New York.
In 2006, upon moving to New Jersey after having their first child, they had a domestic partnership in New Jersey, to assure their rights in their new state. Funny, DB and I got married in Ohio and never thought to have it renewed where we actually lived, in NJ. Oh yeah, we didn’t have to. Every state recognizes our marriage.
Rabbi Francine Roston presided over their 2007 Civil Union, a small ceremony with family and a few friends. Although at the time Samantha said she had been “married enough,” when this opportunity came up, for full marriage equal to anyone else’s marriage, they both jumped at the chance.
“What an honor it was to be part of this historic day,” Jan told me this morning. Once they knew the start date of marriage equality would not be postponed by an appeal by Gov. Christie, Jan ran out in the morning to get new outfits for the family for the ceremony in the afternoon. Couples who had been married elsewhere did not have to abide by NJ’s 72 hour post-license waiting period to be married, so a group of nine couples were married on the front plaza of our city hall. “It was special to share it with good friends and to get married literally alongside them.”
Sam and Jan’s three kids were with them. The fourth grader was excited, and their toddler was just happy to dress up, but their six year old was a little stressed. “He didn’t quite understand. He sees our wedding picture on the wall. Now he wondered, ‘what do you mean you’re not married?’” Jan explained. “We used it as a teachable moment.” By the time the vows were said and the rainbow cake was served, he was his usual cheery elf-self.
At the end of a Jewish wedding, this is sung to the new couple: “Od Yeshama, B’Arei Yehuda, U’Vechutzot Yerushalayim, Kol Sason V’Kol Simcha, Kol Chatan V’Kol Kallah,” which translates to “Again may these be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of gladness and the voice of happiness, the voice of groom and bride.” I’m so glad that now, in New Jersey, all grooms and all brides can have the voices of gladness and happiness ringing in their ears.
Jan told me her favorite wedding was the most meaningful, the big Jewish shebang in Brooklyn. As for going from state to state to get married some more as the opportunity arises? “Not one more,” Jan said of weddings. “I’m not doing it again.”