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A Marriage Undone

Suspect Thoughts Press publisher Greg Wharton and editor Ian Philips' wedding and subsequent annulment in San Francisco helped inspire their timely gay-marriage anthology, I Do/I Don't: Queers on Marriage.

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When longtime partners Greg Wharton and Ian Philips -- the respective publisher and editor of Suspect Thoughts Press -- heard that newly elected San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision defied the California constitution by allowing same-sex partners to wed, they drove to City Hall immediately. 'It was pretty damn exciting,' Wharton recalls by phone. 'It was just amazing that we might be able to wed when we never thought we would have a chance.' On Feb. 19, 2004, along with about 4,000 other gay and lesbian couples, Wharton and Philips officially tied the knot.

In a not-so-unusual move, the city sold the names of all the couples that got married to interest groups and marketing agencies. Wharton's mailbox and computer were soon bombarded with mailings from a number of organizations. One email, from the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, announced a press conference on gay-marriage 'talking points.'

The 42-year-old Wharton and the 39-year-old Philips were disgusted. 'We were like, 'We got married, why should we learn political talking points?' That really upset us,' says Wharton. The couples' disdain motivated them to create a new project, one that would be a collection of testimonies about gay marriage -- coming straight from the heart rather than packaged responses.

I Do/I Don't: Queers on Marriage took only about seven months to publish and print. 'We knew if we were going to do an anthology, we would have to do it quick,' says Wharton. The pair sent out hundreds of calls for submissions, asking for participants to respond as soon as possible. 'It was really haphazard,' says Wharton. 'The book is a product of goodwill and hard work.' The result is a compilation of 132 pieces from a diverse population of professional and recreational writers. The couple will be in town this weekend to promote the book at the annual Saints and Sinners Literary Festival held throughout the French Quarter and benefiting the NO/AIDS Task Force.

Just as the book was being prepped for print in the summer of 2004, the California Supreme Court on Aug. 12 voided the 4,037 marriages that had been certified from Feb. 12 to March 11 (when the court voted to halt the ceremonies). The court, in a 5-2 decision, ruled that Mayor Newsom and city officials were in violation of the law for issuing the certificates because legislation and a state voter-approved measure defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

'It was not that surprising that they annulled the marriages, but still, it was very disappointing,' says Wharton.

Although the project remained intact, Philips made the decision to adapt the book's foreword to reflect recent events. In it, Philips laments the California Supreme Court's conclusion, but declares that gay marriage is not the 'end of gay liberation.' For many of the book's contributors, it seems, gay marriage is not even a concern at all.

Still, bookshelves across the country were becoming overcrowded with writing on the topic. 'There was a bit of a worry once the book was in production because we thought people might be tired of reading about it,' says Wharton. He and Philips believed there was nothing on the market that embraced the diverse viewpoints of the entire lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community. 'The media was really one-sided on the issue,' Wharton says. 'You only saw the two white-boy-next-door types getting married or the dyke couple where one was wearing the power suit and the other was all femmed up. Not everyone in the queer community wants to get married. Not everyone in the community thinks that marriage is an institution we should be a part of.'

There are those like writer Charlie Anders, who declares, 'We will not stop until we win this fight. We will throw open the doors and walk inside! We demand our right to enter into this wonderful institution.' And then there are those like tattoo artist Tala Brandeis who writes, 'F--k the emotional state of 'bonding' through a ceremony that in any way shape or form includes the state.' Wharton says he wants to keep fighting for the right to marry even in light of the current shifts in the political winds. Recent advances on the state level both in California and Connecticut offer some hope. "There have been some great moves to recognize legal partnerships that are not marriage, but you still don't get the rights," says Greg. "But I would still do it all over again and marry Ian in a second."

Greg Wharton (right) and his partner, Ian Philips, created
  • Greg Wharton (right) and his partner, Ian Philips, created

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