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'Lawfully Wedded Husband' traces couple's journey to the altar
by Charlsie Dewey
2013-11-06

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The gay-marriage landscape has changed drastically from when Joel Derfner first became engaged and began writing his newest book, Lawfully Wedded Husband: How Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family.

Still, he said, until all 50 states allow same-sex marriage, the book will find readers who can relate as well as many who can share in the stories he tells because they've had a similar experience getting to the alter.

In addition to tracing the changing political landscape around gay marriage the book also looks at the many other questions that Derfner contemplated along the journey.

"It's probably half-memoir and half, call it, exploration," he said. "Marriage is essentially the spine of the book, but there are a lot of things I talk about whose relationship to marriage isn't immediately clear. There is a chapter in which I spend a lot of time talking about racism in the gay community, which I think is a serious and incredibly disappointing problem."

The book also includes an account of Derfner's experience of having his future in-laws move in so that his partner's father could die in their home as well as Derfner's experience on the reality show Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys.

"Basically, my boyfriend said, 'Hey could my parents move in so my dad can die in your office?' What, I'm going to say, no?" he said, pointing out that that is what marriage is about.

Derfner explores the difference of having to have, essentially, two weddings. The couple legally married in Iowa, but held their reception in New York.

"I really was very upset about the idea of these two weddings and what I came to was the realization that a wedding really is two things and for straight people those things can be combined into one," he said. "You have a ceremony, you get your friends together, you say your vows and then you sign a piece of paper.

"For us, because New York at the time didn't have marriage equality, those two things had to be separated. So I think one thing that is interesting in the book is people talking about how marriage is two different things, there is an emotional side to it and a legal side to it, and those have two sets of different ramifications."

The importance of being able to become a family is another topic Derfner broaches in the book.

"America in the 21st century, the only way to become a family is to marry, and by forbidding us to marry what they really want is to forbid us from forming families, and eventually the right to marry will force the country to admit that we can make families and that we are families," he said.

Derfner said that marriage hasn't changed the way he feels when he and his husband are at home, but when they are out in the world it does.

"I talk a little in the book about how what I came to was an understanding that marriage isn't about the relationship between two people; it's about the relationship between a couple and society," he said.

He noted that it was nice to be writing the book as more and more states were allowing marriage equality.

"I feel like once Massachusetts gained marriage equality in 2004 the battle was over," he said. "We'd won and it was just sort of a question of it playing itself out in all the states and in the government. We are going to have full marriage equality in this country in my lifetime. In an odd way it felt good to be writing a book about being on the winning side."


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