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Probably my best known works are the articles, content, blog posts, etc that I’ve written for the company I co-founded, RainbowWeddingNetwork.com.  Many articles have been published in our associated magazine, which was first published in 2006 as the first wedding magazine dedicated to LGBT couples.  My favorites, of course, are the pieces that include interviews with couples and their families – these are the most tender & heartfelt, and as an artist, I can connect with these most strongly.

Another work of nonfiction is a little book I wrote several years ago as a birthday present for my partner, Cindy.  It is the story of our experience as entrepreneurs and founders of RainbowWeddingNetwork and SameLoveSameRights.com, as seen through her eyes.  This book highlights many of the snapshot moments we’ve had out on the trail, pursuing civil rights, from meeting famous politicians to receiving heartfelt hugs from couples state-to-state.  Some of the excerpts are below; a second edition is in the works and will be available soon for purchase.


http://www.issuu.com/rwnmagazine/docs/vol4is1

http://issuu.com/rwnmagazine/docs/vol5is1

 
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Chapter Excerpts from “My Dangerous Commute” by Cindy Sproul & Marianne Puechl
© 2010 Jemima Creek Signature Publications

These selections may not be reproduced without consent of the authors.

 

Chapter 5: Witness to History

As a photojournalist in Atlanta in the 1990’s, I had the opportunity many times to photograph the MLK March. There midst the birthplace of Dr. King and with the event ending at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the historic energy of the event is palpable. The crowd is always diverse and impassioned; I found unique and refreshing photo opportunities every year. And it was of course an honor to be there, witnessing one community’s ongoing dedication to the ideals of equality.

Members of Rev. Dr. King’s family usually took part, and one year in the late 1990’s, security was particularly thick as Coretta Scott King was marching. I had the good fortune to position myself at an intersection, and as the group of Dr. King’s family rounded the corner, the police and secret servicemen parted just for a moment and through my lens gave clear view. The shot is historic: Arm in arm, Coretta Scott King, her children and a solid line of famous civil rights advocates mark their way through that bright morning light of the New Year.

Another photojournalistic opportunity in the 1990’s led me to meet President Bill Clinton. I recall how, prior to his arrival, my peers and I stood in a row and were prepping ourselves about remaining collected. Then the trumpets soared ‘Hail to the Chief!’ as the President entered, extending his hand and smiling wide. His presence overcame me, as well as most of my colleagues. None of us managed to utter much that was meaningful, nor to request that the President autograph our press passes. He was simply that charismatic; that commanding.

Many years later I secured access for myself and other members of our magazine staff to a campaign event for Senator Hillary Clinton. This time, experience was on my side. As members of the press we were granted close proximity to photograph the Presidential candidate, and afterward I hurried my staff through a passageway where I’d spotted some of the official Press Corps.

It had been an exhilarating evening: the crowd was enthusiastic and a-buzz with chatter and anticipation. Some in attendance were actually teary-eyed, as they considered that this truly could mark the moment in history in which our citizens elected their first female President. The Senator’s speech in our North Carolina town that night had been steered toward military commitment; a line of famous generals and admirals joined her on stage and attested to her abilities to successfully fill the role of Commander-in-Chief. The sense of new possibility for our country was absolutely tangible.

When Senator Clinton appeared once more, this time to personally shake hands and meet the crowd, the energy rose even higher. Supporters thanked her enthusiastically; more tears were shed. My staff and I exchanged ideas, a little giddy, and coached one another as the entourage came closer to our point in line.

One of my employees, greeting the candidate, held up a copy of RainbowWeddingNetwork Magazine and requested her autograph. Mrs. Clinton took a moment to glance at the cover and offered an affirmative nod upon realizing its content. With a quick sweep of her pen, she signed it. My second staff-member offered her one of our lapel pins, with the logo ‘Same Love, Same Rights.’® Again she graciously took a moment to look the gift over before pressing it into her pocket.

I had decided several hours before what my question for the candidate would be: concise, pointed... I knew I’d only have a brief second, if lucky enough to meet her. As she shook my hand, I uttered the words: “Thank you, Senator, for your service. May I ask, do you support civil unions or full marriage rights for the gay community?”

She moved down the line, keeping her pace. Yet it was obvious she was thinking about my question. I gained a good deal of respect for her in that moment of consideration.

Ultimately she turned back to meet my gaze: “Civil unions,” she said with conviction. And that was that. Simple. Perhaps not unexpected, perhaps not particularly revealing. But for me, a truly priceless moment.

____________

When my partner Marianne and I began marketing our business idea in 2000, many within the LGBT community laughed at us. Some of them got angry, believing that in promoting the idea of same-sex marriage, we were trying too hard to homogenize the gay community into becoming more ‘straight:’ taking on aspects of the traditional hetero- lifestyle and trying to fit in. The most prevalent comment we received from gays and lesbians when we approached them about our new online wedding resource, dedicated to LGBT couples, was echoed repeatedly, ‘Are you sure we’re ready for this??’

Obviously we did find support, otherwise we wouldn’t have been successful. In fact our strongest advocates were straight business professionals who wanted to reach out to the LGBT community. And their motives were more altruistic than you might think: instead of banking on an infusion of gay consumers for the sake of growing their client base, most of our first advertisers were professionals who simply wanted to let couples know that they were running their businesses with a policy of non-discrimination; they wanted to treat all their clients with respect and joyfulness. It was a surprise to Marianne and me that this was where we found our anchor point. But it was uplifting, indeed.

Not many years later, our company expanded to produce many of the nation’s first-ever LGBT Wedding Expos. We had the honor of presenting such an event in Cambridge just two weeks prior to same-sex marriage being enacted in Massachusetts in 2004. Later that summer, we were at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, within weeks after Mayor Gavin Newsom’s citywide marriages there had been overturned. Turnout was lower than we’d hoped, affected no doubt by the ruling, but the energy that day was historic indeed.

Couples, generally, were heavy with the recent news about the loss of their state’s commitment to them as equal citizens under the law. But their vision for the future remained intact. Many voiced gratitude to us, as the event producers, as well as to the press for choosing to cover the afternoon’s festivities as a legitimate and newsworthy event, and to the Mayor and the local activists who were continuing the effort toward equality. There was an air of the bittersweet, but it was charged with an undercurrent of solid assurance. The day marked quite a change from just 4 years prior, in terms of overall sentiment about the issue.

Viewing history, and taking part in the flow of history, seems to be an experience that happens in flux. There is a continuum, ever cycling, and at any one snapshot-moment in time outcomes can seem unpredictable. Historic things happen after millennia of effort and planning; historic things happen at a moment’s notice. It’s something to consider. Sometimes, when I meet couples today, we end up chatting about activism and involvement and how to feel like one is actually making a difference in the endless span of time. I tell them to come out of the closet. Not as gay or lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer or questioning… I invite them to come out as an equality advocate; someone who believes in the absolute of equal rights for everyone in our nation and around the world. And if that’s not something that strikes a chord, I invite them to come out for another cause; another passion – whatever it may be.

My two cents’ worth is that they’re already involved, with whatever actions they’re taking everyday: they’re already making an impact. Environmentally, socially, personally… The question is whether or not they’ve taken responsibility for those everyday actions, whether they’ve taken ownership for the motives underneath. With clear and mindful choices leading to clear and mindful action, activism begins. That’s where the substance of history is born. We’re all a part. Whether we consciously realize it or not, that’s the distinction.

Chapter 6: Twice Two Brides

Yes, it does make a difference.

My future wife and I met in 1997 through a mutual friend. About eight months later I began working on an artistic project and, remembering that Marianne was a writer, I asked her to be a part. As we got to know each other, romance blossomed and on June 18, 1998 we officially went out on our first date. Marianne did quite well making an impression. Arriving to pick me up, she carried two deep red roses. One she offered sweetly to me, the other she gave to my best friend and roommate. –It was a diplomatic move, and it went over very well. Ever since, Marianne has been in good stead with my friend, which can certainly come in handy: for her, for my friend, and for me too. Yes, it spoke volumes about the woman with whom I was about to embark on such an incredible life journey: she is romantic and considerate, she is a long-range thinker, she is creative and clever.

She had kept the evening’s plans a secret, and it was perfect. Remembering my favorite food, Marianne drove to the most quaint little sushi restaurant in town. Showing her true colors, she unabashedly got lost on the way. After dinner, she whisked me off to the movie theater and prior to going inside presented me with a cassette. On it was a recording of the theme song from the film. ‘I like to communicate in a variety of ways, on a variety of levels,’ she told me. ‘I thought this would be a fun way for us to get to know each other, and to explore our relationship. I recorded a first song that means something about how I see ‘us’ right now… You can record one and then we’ll trade back and forth. We’ll see where it goes, where it leads us.’

It was moving. And not a little intimidating. But I guess I held up all right; we continued happily dating for a year and then on the anniversary of our first night out, we surprised one another with unexpected engagement proposals, one after the other. Overjoyed, we agreed to wait a little while and set a date for the following summer. The date, August 12, 2000, was based on the annual display of the Perseid Meteor Shower and also on the numerics of our birthdates along with the timing of that memorable first date.

Friends were happy for us; our families were supportive. There was a surprise engagement party and planning moved along relatively smoothly. Some of our more awkward experiences as a same-sex couple led us to the concept for our business plan; otherwise the details of our ceremony came together with ease and excitement.

Our ceremony on August 12th was held in the evening on a pristine beach off the coast of Georgia. It was an intimate ceremony with the ocean as backdrop and a rolling sky signaling the dynamic nature of our future together. Earlier that afternoon we had sighted wild horses playfully running on the sand and wild boar roaming the wooded interior of the island, an exciting and unusual preamble to our celebration.   Other beachgoers applauded and called out congratulations as our circle of friends gathered for the moment. The officiant, Marianne’s longtime friend, had been trained as a South American shaman and the ceremony included shamanistic aspects as well as other rituals that were important to us. Tears were shed. We exchanged the simple vows we had written with special care:

‘This day, I dedicate myself to love you and honor you and to keep your happiness sacred. I believe in you and support you in your path. May I always take care to remember just what a miracle you are. Let us co-create life together and rejoice that such love has found us!’

It was a beautiful day. In our hearts, the event marked a solemn commitment and a pivotal, thrilling new chapter in our lives. Nonetheless, beyond our own circle, the event had no meaning.

______________

When same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004, my partner and I considered having another ceremony. Soon enough however, it became clear that Massachusetts was going to dust off a piece of old legislation and refuse to marry out-of-state residents, both same-gender and heterosexual couples alike, from that point forward.

Later, as we seriously began planning to have a child, Marianne and I also spent a great deal of time pondering whether or not to venture to Vermont or another locale and enter into a formalized civil union or domestic partnership. As our lawyer suggested, any legal documentation outlining our commitment to one another would certainly prove helpful in the event of a future break-up or death. And such documentation becomes ever more important when a child’s welfare is at stake.

The ruling by the California Supreme Court in the Spring of 2008 helped to expand our options considerably. Finally, we would be able to enter into a legally recognized marriage, as two women who lived beyond the state’s borders. It seemed the perfect scenario.

_______________

In July, 2008 our company produced four back-to-back LGBT Wedding Expos throughout the Golden State, in celebration of the landmark legislation. Spirits were high: couples were eagerly planning and wedding vendors were excited about the fresh opportunity, and genuinely pleased that their Supreme Court had finally ruled in favor of equality.   The date for our own marriage ceremony simply unfolded from there.

Without a doubt, we wanted our second wedding to take place on the beach. Also reminiscent of our first ceremony, we asked our guests to read the same quotes to us and we exchanged the same vows. This time, our officiant offered us a spiritually-based celebration – a reflection of the original but with new meaningfulness and additional insights. Our little girl joined us, bringing a special happiness to the day, and touchingly her biological grandmother was among our guests. As we gathered together that afternoon in Malibu, the dolphins played in the surf just beyond our circle.

The night’s celebration included an absolutely delectable meal at a nearby restaurant. We relaxed and enjoyed the company of our little party; we watched the sun set lazily over the water with a burst of vibrant orange. We giggled about being Malibu Brides. Our 22-month-old daughter amused herself with the fragrant flower petals. And we filled out a standardized application, on a dull piece of white paper with Times New Roman font and common, rectangular datafields. My hand was shaking.

Many couples tell us that, prior to having their ‘official’ wedding -the legally binding one- they never anticipated it would be any different than a ceremony that is not recognized by the state. And they are always surprised at just how marked a difference it turns out to be.

I felt the same way, though I wasn’t surprised by it. I had foreseen how it would affect me, personally, to receive that formalized document in the mail, once certified. Quite literally, I had dreamed of that very day.

When it arrived several weeks later, with our names together there on the same sheet of paper, we jumped for joy; we had the urge to post it prominently on the wall of the living room. We handled it with the utmost care and let our fingers pass over the words with tenderness and gratitude. We had been married for years, spiritually, emotionally, in our minds and in our hearts. But this symbolized another vital and substantive piece: We were married, and it meant something now to strangers and to our government and on behalf of the future protections and rights of our daughter.

Yes, it does make a difference. I’m not sure of the words to emphasize it completely. Beyond all doubt, and through to the very core... it simply does make a difference.

_____________

Chapter Excerpts from “My Dangerous Commute” by Cindy Sproul & Marianne Puechl
© 2010 Jemima Creek Signature Publications

These selections may not be reproduced without consent of the authors.