Brett Webb-Mitchell: Going to the Chapel...Just Not Yet


I like weddings. I'm also very knowledgeable about weddings, which comes from various first-hand experiences. I've played the role of guest; relative to bride or groom; groomsman; best man; was a groom; wedding coordinator; and organist or pianist. I am most often the celebrant of weddings as a Presbyterian minister. My parents were married for over 50 years. Like them, I married my best friend from high school days. We celebrated 21 years together, welcoming two wonderful children into our lives. As a pastor and seminary professor I taught people about the importance of the rituals of weddings, in which we embody the blessings of God while recognizing the blessings are themselves discovered in the rituals.

All that changed when I came out of my gay closet. Our marriage soon came to an end when I gathered up the courage to live honestly. Soon after, my partner Dean and I bought a house. We've lived together for 17 years. Over time, my children, Dean, their mom, and I have spent years celebrating holidays, birthdays, and graduation. This was all done without a wedding or being married. We cannot wed because North Carolina's constitution defines marriage as between a man and woman.

Living outside of marriage yet being in a significant long-term relationship is like being a visitor in an unknown country with a strange language: are we partners or lovers? We're not husbands. On top of that, an unexpected offshoot of living outside marriage is that my children are hesitant about getting married. Recent studies show that many children of LGBTQ parents are finding themselves reluctant to get married. In an article by Alexis Coe in The Atlantic Monthly, she cited research by Abbie Goldberg of Clark University showing that many young straight adults had "complicated" feelings and reactions about getting married overall, all of them sensitive towards their same-sex parents' inability to marry.

This is true for my daughter Adrianne, who has been in a significant relationship with her boyfriend for over five years. Adrianne's reaction to the study is as follows:

I do feel ambivalent, as the article suggests, about my own potential future marriage. I think I fall somewhere in the "Yes, I want to get married, but ..." category. The tremendous pang of guilt definitely resonates with me, as a heterosexual in a committed relationship looking toward a future that ideally involves marriage with gay parents in a committed relationship who are currently not allowed the same freedom... I think if anything has been instilled in me, as far as family is concerned, it is that love is what makes a family. Which brings up a somewhat contradictory point. The three of you -- Mom, Dad, and Dean -- raised my brother and me, yet there is currently no marriage involved in parenting us. The lack of marriage has made no difference. No one can look at me and tell that my parents are not married or that I have two dads. In this case marriage is not a part of what it means to be a family. In the end, marriage is not at all required for it to be a family, but it can certainly be helpful for legal reasons. As you are all probably aware, a wedding has always been a part of my dreams for my future since as far back as I can remember. The fact that I have two dads who cannot currently be married legally challenges my future dreams. I feel guilty that I have the right to wed while my gay loved ones cannot marry. Nevertheless, I would like to think that I would be given your blessings on my own marriage, should it be part of my future. I would like to think that all three of you (we'll choreograph this when the time comes) would walk me down the aisle at my wedding with smiles on your faces because LOVE is what really makes a family.

Perhaps we will all go to the chapel to get married. That is the hope. And I know just the kind of cake we'll have at the reception: red velvet, with cream cheese icing!

Originally posted on by permission.