“We Do” looks at three same-sex couples’ pursuit of marriage equality

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Today, same-sex couples can get married anywhere in the U.S. and have it count anywhere in the U.S. I realize you’re probably already aware of this “news,” but have you thought about what it means to those that wanted to get married despite knowing their marriages wouldn’t be recognized in their home states? What options did they have, and how far would they go in pursuit of the legal recognition of their marriages? Rebecca Rice’s new documentary We Do tries to paint this picture by exploring the stories of three couples. 

We-Do

The film features the stories of Michael and Michael, Viviana and Mariel, and Leta and Anne (with an awesome cameo from their son Jaxson). Whereas the Michaels traveled to Vermont to secure a civil union in 2002, the women had wedding ceremonies in their home states before taking it a step further. Given their stories together, it’s not surprising they wanted that little bit more.

Leta and Anne met in a bar shortly after Leta had gotten out of a relationship. The last thing on her mind was dating, but you know how these things go. Anne actually lied about her age, making herself out to be one year older because Leta has 10 years on her. Leta got over it pretty fast, probably because they were just such a good fit. Anne’s mom thought as much, warning her daughter to not “fuck it up.” She didn’t.

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Leta’s son Jaxson was seven at the time, and it was obvious that Anne would have to be all in for this to work. Five months into the relationship, they bought a house together. What came next seems obvious: the big proposal. The couple went to New York City, where Leta arranged a horse carriage ride through Central Park. She pulled out a ring in front of a runny-nosed Anne, who, unbeknownst to Leta at the time, is allergic to horses. Anne still said yes, because it’s not rational to expect your girlfriend to know everything about you so soon after you’ve U-hauled.

They had their wedding ceremony in 2013. Since they lived in Colorado it could be no more than a civil union. Jaxson participated in the vows and walked Leta down the aisle. Both their families were really supportive, and Anne’s three dads even walked her down the aisle (her mom had remarried a few times). It was a beautiful ceremony, but instead of following it with a luxury honeymoon, Leta and Anne traveled to San Francisco so they could get legally married. They did at City Hall, where Leta’s brother officiated.

We later find out Anne’s pregnant, which only confirms the importance of having gotten legally married for the couple. For them, marriage is especially important because it “supports families.”

Viviana and Mariel’s story isn’t quite as fluffy, but they’re still crazy cute. They met in college, but at the time they both had girlfriends. They remained just friends for two years, until Viviana went on spring break with Mariel and her family. That’s when they finally fell in love and the rest is history. Mariel’s proposal might even trump Leta’s–she proposed with a mariachi band playing in the background, just like her honey had said she wanted.

They weren’t really publicly out at that point, but once they got married they say it felt easier to come out. For them, marriage validated their relationship in the eyes of others. But that wasn’t the case for everyone. They were surprised to find out that Mariel’s family, who had been accepting of the couple up until that point, were horrified that they were making it official.

We Do, Viviana and Mariel Baluja wedding, Erica Nix photographer

Looking back on it, Viviana and Mariel believe the ceremony in Austin was “just a show” and a “waste.” They much more fondly recall their legal wedding in New York City. It was only the two of them and it just so happened to be National Coming Out Day. And it was great.

It was a refresher for them as a couple, and once they were back in Austin they walked the streets confidently as wife and wife. But all is not perfect, because just a mile from their home is a small town where they wouldn’t dare be openly affectionate. This reality check cements the fact that marriage isn’t a fix-all solution–we need to change minds too.

For their part, Leta and Anne are thrilled about how much things have changed and how there are just so many people that support their family. But for Viviana and Mariel, more important than having the support of others is having each other. Two very different stories with one clear thing in common: the belief that marriage is worth striving for.

Every couple featured in this film left their homes so as to have their marriages legally recognized, even though it would have no bearing where they lived. It just meant that much to them, and it does to a lot of people. Whether you are for marriage or not, you have to respect that. Of course a bright note they couldn’t have known at the time of filming is that now their marriages are legal across the nation. Amazing, isn’t it?

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As a documentary, We Do is pretty standard. It isn’t very inventive in terms of shots, and it relies a lot on using photos to tell the couples’ stories. It clearly didn’t have a sizeable budget, but you don’t need one for a film that aims to do what this one did–compellingly share the stories of everyday couples that went more than just the extra mile to ensure their relationships were socially and legally recognized. There We Do hits it out of the park.

 

We Do has its world premiere at the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival on September 12. Check in with your local LGBT film festival to find out when it’ll be playing near you.

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