Thursday, December 12, 2013
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David Jacobs, left, and Paul Jacobs play with their dog Godiva in their home in South Portland on Friday. The couple of 22 years recently got engaged and plan to get married in July.
Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer
For Denise LaFrance, left, and Sherry Dunkin, a legal marriage would represent another symbol of their lifelong commitment.
There was no exchange of rings; they had done that after they had been together for a year. Mondor did not get down on one knee or in any other way acknowledge the traditional heterosexual proposal ritual.
"He drew the line at that," said Dumont. "He said, 'Let them (the straight world) have that.'"
Still, for Mondor and Dumont, and for their 13-year-old son, Ethan, being able to marry legally and have that recognition means that what for years has defined their family -- their own circle of love, support, commitment and the work and play of a day-to-day life -- now also has been "recognized" by the state and the world beyond their family, friends and acquaintances.
The wedding probably will happen sometime next year, Mondor said, and "it's going to be huge," because so many people have already said they're coming. The couple have not decided where the wedding will take place; Mondor admitted they felt momentarily "that knee-jerk reaction" to go right to City Hall for a ceremony.
"But it's a very serious thing to show our commitment, to show our love," he said. So, even after the long wait for legal sanction, they will hold off a little longer -- to get things just right.
Meanwhile, everyday life has already returned to normal. "Everything in our life is still the same," Mondor said.
"We're still chasing (Ethan) to do his homework," said Dumont. "Still getting him to basketball practice."
The men already have created a sense of family in the usual ways; Mondor's been a part of the PTA since Ethan was in kindergarten and has served as a coach for sports teams, too. They also twice went through the process of adoption, first in 2004, when the state allowed only one partner -- in this case, Mondor -- to hold the status of a parent, while Dumont became a guardian. Subsequently, Maine recognized the right of equal partnerships in such adoptions, and now both are legal parents to their son.
But winning the right to legally marry adds another dimension, for them and in the eyes of the world, Mondor said. "We're making it real."
A SYMBOL OF COMMITMENT
For Denise LaFrance and Sherry Dunkin of South Portland, legal marriage will be yet another symbol of a lifelong commitment they made seven years ago in a ceremony that "was very much a wedding for us," LaFrance said. As for what and how they might legalize that bond now, "honestly, we haven't talked about it."
"With the last vote," which in 2009 repealed the right of gay couples to marry, "so many people were so devastated," said LaFrance, 52, a life coach who counsels women on mid-life transitions, from coming out to making career changes. This time around, "we were hopeful but cautious, really cautious."
But with the way cleared to publicly embrace "the civil, legal piece" of marriage, "the conversations (about whether to marry) will happen now" throughout the gay community, she said. "I'm sure we'll have the conversation now."
"It won't change anything day to day," LaFrance said. But she believes there are three aspects of gay life that will shift dramatically, if quietly, by normalizing same-sex marriage identity within the larger culture.
"One, having the relationship be recognized" will make a profound difference in how people feel about themselves and their lifelong committed relationships, she said.
"Two, the legal protections (won't) be questioned, and three, for the kids," she said. Legal marriage will be a validation that their families are as valued and worthwhile as any other.
Sea changes like these demonstrate why the right to marry and to be viewed under the law as equal to heterosexual couples means everything to people who in the past have been excluded.
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Ray Dumont, left, partner Rodney Mondor, right, and their son, Ethan Mondor, pose for a family portrait at Lyric Theater in South Portland. The men got engaged at Tuesday’s Question 1 victory celebration.
Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer