Although California now offers same-sex couples a historic opportunity to get married, some say they’re not ready to make such a commitment. Nonetheless, they’re now feeling the same pressures heterosexual couples have long endured, with family and friends saying, “So when’s the wedding?”
What’s worse, says Smith, is that gay couples are feeling pressured to rush into marriage before the November election, when voters will decide whether the state constitution should be changed to limit marriage to being between a man and a woman.
“I’m petrified that if we don’t wed before then that we may not have the opportunity to be legally recognized until we’re much older. It’s scary,” Smith said.
Floods of couples have rushed to make appointments for marriage licenses across California — clerks in some cities, including San Francisco, are extending office hours to fit in all the ceremonies.
“Being rushed to enter into a lifelong commitment with someone before voting day was never part of the fairytale,” Smith said.
What is becoming clear, however, is that gay marriage is not only a historic civil-rights achievement, it will forever alter a tradition of informal relationships in the gay community, according to Michael Quirke, a longtime marriage and family therapist in San Francisco and San Mateo.
“Now, gay couples are going to have to start dealing with consciously talking about where a relationship is headed,” Quirke said. “Before, people avoided it because [gay relationships] were legally and socially informal.”
John Gerrard, 24, said he is proud that gay couples have achieved equal marriage rights, but said he’s in no rush to say, “Till death do us part.”
“I think that most of the people who [are marrying] right now have been together for a while and have wanted to do it for years,” Gerrard said.
Quirke said he has counseled gay couples who were married in 2004 and said he noticed two main trends in how their relationships changed: First, he said people were confused about their legal and financial futures and were consulting with attorneys; and second, issues with commitment became more prevalent.
“It’s the sort of thing straight couples already deal with,” he said.