November 10, 2012

For same-sex couples, marriage is vindication

They have always seen their committed relationships as legitimate -- now society has endorsed them as well.

By North Cairn ncairn@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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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.

Family photo

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"Every time I think about it, I cry," LaFrance said. It might seem to people outside the community to be a "strange validation, but it matters because we're human. (Our) emotion is right on the edge. The life of being gay is easier because of the vote this week."

Marriage "really doesn't change (things) for us emotionally," LaFrance said. She and Dunkin, 54, an IT manager, have a "tight-knit group" of friends, most of whom have been in long-term relationships -- 33 years in the case of one couple. Most of them have already put in place legal protections for one another concerning health care and inheritance, for example.

Some long-standing couples, LaFrance said, will look at legal marriage and say, "Why bother?" For them, "it will be a question of whether the benefits outweigh the costs."

But for others, she said, marriage will represent both an end to the sense of "we've waited for so long" and a beginning of a publicly sanctioned and recognized "lifelong commitment."

"There may be a certain amount of social awkwardness" as couples adjust to the landscape of legalized marriage, she added, because "the gay community is as diverse as the straight community."

"The terminology is going to be really interesting," LaFrance said, admitting herself to "some trepidation about using the term 'wife'" to describe her life partner.

"For so many people, they've craved that for so long," she said. "To be able to say those words" -- husband or wife -- will be very important to gay men and lesbians.

"Partners come and go," LaFrance said. But even "life partner" -- while it attests to a "death-do-us-part kind of thing" -- doesn't have the same impact as "wife," which to her bespeaks a more permanent and total commitment.

"It's not a gender-role thing," she explained. The pairings will be wife-to-wife and husband-to-husband, not husband and wife.

The traditional male-female gender roles and how those are navigated "is part of the negotiation" in same-sex relationships, more so than for heterosexual couples, LaFrance said. In some ways, it's the "opposite of the straight world," because roles and expectations are not as clearly delineated.

"What we see in the community will be about names," LaFrance said. "I wonder if (people) will take a partner's name. I wouldn't be surprised if we see whole new trends starting."

Staff Writer North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: ncairn@pressherald.com


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Additional Photos

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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


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