Rating: 4 stars
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Seth Murphy was a big supporter of Question 6, a referendum to legalize same sex marriage in Maryland. So he is crushed when after it passes in November, his partner Owen does not want to marry him. Owen wants to see funds used for a variety of equal rights protections rather than so focused on gay marriage and thinks it would be hypocrtical to marry given his opinions. Seth understands Owen’s feelings, but emotionally he is still devastated. He dreams of marrying Owen and as much as he puts on a good face, the issue still pains him.
When the couple arrives at Seth’s parents’ house for Christmas, things go from bad to worse. Seth’s family assumed a wedding was in the works and are quite upset to hear Owen doesn’t want to marry Seth. What should be a joyous holiday turns into one attempt after another to convince Owen to change his mind, and to keep the men from sleeping together or even touching while at the house since they are now “living in sin.” As they deal with the pressures from Seth’s family, as well as the internal struggle Seth faces dealing with his disappointment, the men must remain confident in their relationship and love for one another.
So, I will start off here by telling you this is an issue that is close to my heart, as I live in Maryland and was a big supporter of the passage of the referendum that would legalize marriage in our state. I lobbied congresspeople, donated money, and stood outside on election night with my 11-year-old handing out pro-Question 6 literature. I was up half the night on election night watching the results, and when I finally got confirmation that marriage equality had passed here, I cried tears of joy. So this is definitely something about which I feel strongly and I was very excited to see that Gregg had written a story focusing on the recent election here.
There are a lot of things I enjoyed about this one. First, I was so excited to see the story shine light on the issue of marriage legalization and highlight the recent electoral victories, as well as the long way still to go in ensuring equal rights for the GBLT community. I think Gregg does a nice job of capturing the feel of my home state, and the mixed emotions of those both for and against the bill. Maryland is interesting demographically in that the center of the state is very liberal and quite populous, while the southern, eastern, and western areas are far more conservative and much less populated. Because the more liberal counties have so many more people, Maryland tends to vote toward the left in most statewide elections, despite the fact that a great number of actual counties vote conservatively. So while in my area folks generally supported the bill, or were at worst indifferent, in other parts of the state, like where Seth and Owen live, there were a lot more anti-marriage supporters and a lot more hostility when the law passed. I think Gregg did a nice job showing the fallout here, how these guys would have struggled in their more conservative community and faced a lot of negativity as the state battled over this issue. I also thought it was interesting to see another side to the marriage issue, and to understand why Owen did not support all the efforts to pass the bill. It is something I never would have thought about and it was nice to get a different perspective.
I also enjoyed these guys as a couple. The bond between them is clear and strong. Even as they struggle, it is obvious how much they love one another and how committed they are together. As hurt as he is, Seth struggles to move past the marriage issue because he loves Owen and wants to be with him no matter what. He stands up for Owen in front of his family, even though he doesn’t agree with him. And Owen puts up with a ton of crap from Seth’s family, allowing them to berate him and bully him about the marriage issue because he knows Seth loves them so much. So I enjoyed these guys a lot and found the story laced with enough quirky humor (porno gingerbread men anyone?) to keep it from being sad or discouraging.
My frustration came primarily from Seth’s family. They had assumed a wedding was imminent, and upon finding out the men are not getting married, they basically lose it. Seth’s parents go on a mission to convince Owen to change his mind, keeping the men separated and double teaming Owen to harass him about the decision. They refuse to let the men share a room or even touch one another, essentially as punishment. If they can get married but don’t, they are living in sin, and none of that is happening in their house. I just found them so heavy handed and frustrating. These are grown men and as disappointed as his family may be, this is none of their business. I felt annoyed at them, and frustrated at Seth for allowing it to happen. I also think that so much focus on the conflict between Seth’s family and the couple took away from really exploring the conflict between the men themselves. I wanted to understand better where things were between them, and to see more time devoted to how they were working through their problems, rather than so much of the external conflict.
So overall I enjoyed this one. I loved the timeliness and the way Gregg pulls together the politics and the holiday into one story. I really liked Seth and Owen and was rooting for them to find their way, even as they struggled a bit. Sweet and quirky with a nice holiday feel.