Proud Bachelor Turned Marrying Man-Sort of; Helping Gay Couples Get Hitched Gave Me a New Respect for a Tradition I've Been Happy to Escape

Article excerpt

Byline: Sean Captain, Captain is a journalist living in San Francisco.

I'm a straight, single man, who, during Valentine's weekend and for several days that followed, performed weddings as a deputized marriage commissioner for the city and county of San Francisco. "I'm surprised that you are doing it," my mother said when I called her from my cell phone, between weddings. An ex-girlfriend expressed similar amazement, clearly alluding to my own reluctance to get hitched. I may or may not get married some day, but that's a decision for me--and my potential partner--to make. I have the freedom to choose, and I can't understand why any of my fellow citizens would be denied that same freedom.

Why did I, a proud bachelor, participate in the marriage frenzy? Because of friendship. Gay friends of mine had driven up from Los Angeles and gotten married first thing on the morning of Feb. 13, the second day of legal same-sex marriages. The city official who performed John and Duncan's ceremony suggested they come back as volunteers to help others who wanted to marry. I went with them out of curiosity--but the excitement and good will were so powerful that I found myself unable to leave. Though my friends and I had no connections, we talked our way into getting deputized.

I learned as much about love in a few days as I had in the previous 32 years. I saw couples who had been together for two years, 12 years, even 22 years. Some came from as far away as Louisiana and New Jersey. Others came from the far side of the world. Their long drives, red-eye flights and patient waiting in the rain outside city hall lasted longer than Britney Spears's marriage. So why have people laughed off that fiasco--and countless other celebrity marriage bombs--while President George W. Bush backs a constitutional amendment to defend marriage from gay unions?

It's easy to take the institution for granted when getting married is as simple as showing up at a wedding chapel. But when people spend years in relationships that society refuses to recognize, their appreciation soars. As one of the bachelors from an ever-dwindling number of singles in my social circle, I've bragged about how I haven't caved in to social pressure and become "dull" like my married friends.

But there was nothing "dull" about any of the marriages I took part in--nothing staid or stagnant about the tearful, joyous couples I met. They were not acquiescing to social pressure. They were showing great courage in affirming their relationships before a society that excludes them. …