In Case You Missed It
Boulderganic Fall 2009
Student Guide 2009
Boulder Weekly Sweet 16 Anniversary
Summer Scene 2009
Best of Boulder 2009
Annual Manual 2009
Newspaper of the Future
Kids Camp Guide 2009
Wedding Marketplace 09
Student Guide 2008
Best of Boulder 2008
Annual Manual 2008
Join Our Mailing List
|March 26-April 1, 2009
Similar, but different
Two views on what marriage means
by Rex W. Huppke
The similarities between the Neubeckers and Creswells are striking: young children, well-appointed Chicago homes, white-collar jobs, nightly dinners as a family.
Each couple believes deeply in the love that binds them and in the institution of marriage, but through the nettlesome definition of that word, the Neubeckers and Creswells refract.
Disagreement over who has the right to marry has become commonplace, and much of the country now awaits a California Supreme Court ruling on the validity of Proposition 8, a ballot measure that outlawed gay marriage in the Golden State.
David and Lee Neubecker are gay and have adopted two children. They were married in San Francisco in 2004 during a brief window when the city married same-sex couples. California nullified the marriage less than a year later, but the men still consider themselves husband and husband.
John and Stacy Creswell were wed in California in 1999 and now have three children. They believe strongly that marriage should be the union of a man and a woman. But they empathize with gay and lesbian partners and believe society should find ways for them to share rights similar to those of married couples.
“I don’t think anyone wants to disenfranchise anybody,” Stacy said. “If couples are having problems in certain areas, how can we as a society better help support these families?”
Each side in this debate tends to broad-brush the other: radical, bigoted, asking too much, giving too little. But in the calm reflections of the Creswells and Neubeckers, a more nuanced disagreement can be found. And while it may not be settled, it can at least be better understood.
David and Lee met at a Chicago nightclub in 1999. Neither was looking for love, but it quickly found them. They dated for about a year and then moved in together.
“When you look at our courtship, it was really pretty traditional,” David said.
Lee proposed to David at an Italian restaurant. He was nervous, holding the ring in one hand under the table and his menu in the other. The menu drifted too close to the candle and caught fire. Shortly after dousing it, Lee popped the question.
In 2004, Lee called David out of the blue: “Hey, you want to go out and get married?” San Francisco had just begun marrying same-sex couples. Lee had already bought the tickets.
On the day they flew out, Feb. 19, 2004, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was quoted in the papers expressing his support for gay marriage. Lee and David took it as a good omen.
Outside City Hall in San Francisco, the couple waited in line for hours and wound up being the last pair married that day. They stood in the rotunda, called their parents on their cell phones and had them listen in.
“We were just overcome,” David said. “Growing up, you feel like a second-class citizen. To get to a point where you feel totally accepted by everyone, from the old ladies on the street to the government, it was just amazing.”
The newlyweds returned to Illinois, where the marriage would not be recognized. And by August 2004, the California Supreme Court voided the Neubeckers’ marriage, along with nearly 4,000 others.
“There was some sadness because, for that short moment, we felt what most of society has felt most of their lives,” Lee said. “Like we were equal.”
The couple moved on, holding separate insurance policies and filling out “single” on almost any kind of official paperwork.
“We emotionally consider ourselves married, but we’re reminded at every turn that we’re not,” David said.
In August 2007, the Neubeckers adopted a brother and sister, now 5 and 6, respectively. They settled into the familiar pattern of family life: school, play dates, birthday parties.
“Our lives are no different than any other,” said David. “Unquestionably, we’re their parents. There’s just no question about it.”
But marriage provides a level of legal protection that a gay couple simply can’t get, particularly when children are involved.
“For me, I care most that we have the same legal rights,” Lee said. “We are citizens. And at this point I’d be happy to just be given equal rights.”
Both David and Lee have parents who’ve had long and loving marriages. So while they might settle for the rights, the term “marriage” itself will always carry heavy meaning.
“Love makes a family,” David said. “But our children, they deserve to say that their parents are married.”
John and Stacy Creswell met in California in the late 1990s. They were both analytical and business-minded — she was in graduate school and he had launched a career that would eventually lead him to a money management firm in Chicago.
Stacy’s roommate introduced them, the man in the suit and tie and the woman in overalls and red Converse sneakers. Beneath different exteriors were two like-minded people; both were athletic and fascinated by processes and figuring out how things work.
They were friends for about six months, dated a year and were married 11 months later.
Their wedding was in the church John went to as a child. They didn’t have much money — their floral display consisted of about a half-dozen poinsettias that wilted slightly before the ceremony. The florist was kind enough to swoop in and give them an additional arrangement free of charge.
Rather than focus on finery, the pair put their energy into the meaning of the ceremony, the emotional and spiritual connection they shared and the excitement they felt to display their love before friends and family.
In the months leading up to the wedding, Stacy lived with John’s parents. After the wedding, she walked into the home she and John would share and found that his family had already moved in all her belongings.
“I got married and all of a sudden I go to the new house and all my clothes were in the closet,” Stacy said. “It was such a wonderful way to start our lives together.”
Stacy became a successful software engineer and the couple wound up moving to Chicago in 2001. Four years ago they had their first child, followed by two more. Stacy decided to focus her energies on the family.
Through their church, the couple have worked extensively with families in Chicago’s housing projects, making close friends and witnessing a wide array of what they call “non-traditional families.” They’ve seen firsthand how the legal definition of a family can work against people bound by love and support but not necessarily blood or formal documents.
Still, Scott and Stacy look analytically at the issue of redefining marriage, respecting the long-standing tradition and worrying what might happen if the institution is changed.
“To change the rules begets the next question, which is ‘Why stop there?’” John said. “The law doesn’t allow blood relatives to marry, requires consent, says you must be over the age of 18 and can’t be married to someone else. It seems inconceivable to me that you’d say, ‘OK, let’s redefine marriage, let’s go further with this experiment,’ and then the next day there wouldn’t be a polygamist at the door saying, ‘What about me?’ “
Stacy feels the debate over changing the meaning of marriage draws focus away from the need for broader family-friendly laws that could benefit everyone, gay and straight alike.
“We should all respect each other for who we are and worry less about labels,” she said. “Whether we’re married or single or life partners or whatever. We’re all people, and we’re all unique. And we should put our focus on that.”
back to top