19 August 2007

marriages - Andrew Sullivan, Paul Guerra, and many others...

No, Andrew Sullivan is not marrying Paul Guerra. This is not a wedding announcement like you see on the society pages in your local newspaper. I'm positive they never even knew each other existed.

Andrew is marrying his beloved Aaron with whom he's been partnered for quite a while. The title is actually a means of comparison between his good fortune and that of Paul Guerra, along with sadness.

Andrew Sullivan has been one of the forerunners of internet blogs. His The DailyDish has been instrumental in popularizing and expanding the importance of online news and commentary. He also has been an unflinching supporter for same-sex marriage rights.

For the last couple of weeks he has been posting and commenting on his upcoming marriage to his fiance, Aaron, in Massachusetts where same-sex marriage is legal. He brought up his pre-wedding jitters and dealing with them. He has gotten a lot of advice from many of his readers.

Today he posted his thanks to his many readers with a piece he entitled The Next Generation. In it he had this to say:
I just want to say, after reading most of the hundreds of emails from heterosexual readers offering me tips and support and memories in advance of my marriage, how amazing it is to feel such support from so many of you. Thanks. The truth is: we gays need our straight friends and families to help us with this marriage thing. It's new to us. And you've made me much less queasy.

I am truly very, very happy for Andrew and Aaron. They have a life ahead of them that is now going to be confirmed not only by the state of Massachusetts but also by family and close friends. The unhappy part of this is that their marriage will only be recognized, for the time being, in Massachusetts and they will not have full benefits. BUT, they will be married.

Paul Guerra was somewhat of a celebrity here in Chicago. He was one of the greatest rod puppeteers. Anyone who has lived in Chicago for a long time probably will remember Kungsholm Miniature Grand Opera Puppet Theatre. Growing up it was one of the greatest field trips whether with family or school. Opera was performed by intricately created and costumed rod puppets using great recordings of operas by the likes of Laurence Melchior and Maria Callas. It was an incredible experience. [Kungsholm was closed in the late 1960's. It is now Lawry's Prime Rib Restaurant.]

The sad part, for Chicago and puppetry, is that Paul Guerra died on August 8, 2007 after surgery. He had continued his work in puppetry working at a suburban park district and was sought after for his design and photography. I never met him or even saw him because he sat under the stage at Kungsholm unseen by anyone, creating his magic along with the theatre's director Bill Fosser, who also died this past year, and a staff of 14 others. I loved going to the theatre [it was also an excellent restaurant] and probably can say that it abetted the obsession I have for opera to this day.

The sadder part of all this is a short line written in Paul Guerra's obituary in today's Chicago Sun-Times -
His survivors include his lifetime companion of 43 years, Don C. Beyer....

My question, of course as you'd expect, is why shouldn't it have said husband instead of lifetime companion? FORTY-THREE YEARS!

The average length of a marriage in the U.S. is now down to 24 years from 37 in 1980. The divorce rate is high in the US also, though it has been going down over the last few years because of people waiting longer to marry and cohabiting beforehand.

The saddest part and also the happiest? I believe that Paul and Don by the fact that they were together for 43 years were married in all ways except the legal way. I also know, from friends with equally long marriages that they were married in the most important ways - love, commitment, sharing, hope, faith... That is what true marriage is. I saw it in my parents marriage; I've seen it in my friends' and cousins' marriages; I've seen it in the marriage of people like the Jimmy Carter's and George HW Bush's. The piece of paper is not the most important part of their marriages. Yes, it gives them benefits that same-sex couple don't have, but I know that it is not the reason they are married.

And so, to Andrew and Aaron, I send my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes. May they have a life like Paul and Don - if not for 43 years then forever...

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