Over the years, I have photographed several same-sex weddings in Portland and around Oregon, and I am always struck by the way in which the emotions that usually hover around a wedding ceremony – love, humility, gravitas mixed with nervous good humor — are accompanied by something else.
As I see it through the camera’s viewfinder, that something extra seems a mix of accomplishment, relief, courage, pride, and perhaps mostly, surprise. To get to this point of publicly declaring their commitment and love, the gay couple or lesbian couple no doubt has had to navigate many more unnerving barriers than a heterosexual couple. Perhaps the surprise comes from the experience of having come through a fire together and finding each other not only unscorched by the flames, but wholly clarified and radiant. It’s a humbling thing to witness.
I’m writing this a couple days after New York State passed legislation allowing same-sex marriage. And I’m wondering, as the barriers to same-sex marriage inevitably fall, will that sense of accomplishment, of having achieved something difficult for the best of purposes, be a thing of the past? If so, what remains — the simple act of publicly committing to a long-term relationship – should suffice.