Jane Marquardt’s Eight Marriages: A March Towards Equality

Jane Marquardt and TamiThere’s a common dinner party game that is often played, wherein the host will ask guests to write down unusual or unexpected facts about themselves on a piece of paper. Once everyone has written down a tidbit about themselves that is unknown to the other guests and submits their pieces of paper, the group then attempts to guess which surprising factoid belongs to which participant of the festivities. Jane has a few unusual facts she enjoys using in these instances. This first is that she went to school with the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. This was, of course, before his horrendous demise. The second one, which can be even more shocking to people than the first, is her marriage history. Jane Marquardt can proudly state she has been married no less than eight times.

This can elicit some rather shocked responses. Nobody guesses that Jane would be the one to have participated in nearly two digits worth of wedding ceremonies. However, the fact remains that it is true. With the recent confirmation by the U.S. Supreme Court that marriage is, definitively, a civil right afforded to every citizen of this great nation, regardless of sexual orientation, it is worth reflecting on how someone like Jane came to say, “I do” so many different times.

The first time Jane got married was in Salt Lake City on a hot, sunny day in June. The year was 1974. She found herself in the First Presbyterian Church, surrounded by her friends and family. Her bridesmaids stood by her side, excited and prepared. Her dress skewed toward the more traditional, long, white, and flowing. In retrospect, Jane recalls distinctly that her attire was one choice about the evening that was not really true to who she is. The second was her spouse. The groom was soft spoken, accommodating, and safe. These were good qualities, but not because they were attributes she would desire in a life partner. Rather, they served to allow space for Jane to grow in accepting an unexpected truth about herself. It was not until a few years after her first wedding that Jane became to fully understand and embrace her identity as a lesbian.

The next time Jane found herself committing to another person, she and a partner had hiked a gorgeous waterfall in Utah’s Uinta Mountains. In that isolated mountain pass, during the summer of 1983, Jane found herself side-by-side with a woman for whom she cared very much. Instead of a dress, Jane wore jeans, a turtleneck, and a down vest. This time, there were no friends and family The fact of the matter is that Jane was somewhat more public with her sexuality now, but her bride was not. Many happy years followed, but over decade of investing in a marriage that was to some extent invariably invisible eventually began to wear the women down. An inability to seek external support during the tough times helped tip the scales and made salvaging the marriage impossible. However, when Jane emerged from this relationship, she had grown and matured emotionally into someone new. This woman, the new Jane, is the person with whom spouse #3 fell in love – and this spouse, Tami, is for whom Jane had been preparing all of her life.

The next six weddings in Jane’s life story were to this same woman. When Vermont legalized “civil unions” for gay couples in 2000, the two stood before the Justice of Peace there and said their vows. Later that year, when families and friends were no longer kept in the dark about the truth and beauty of their love, Jane and Tami had a religious wedding ceremony officiated by their Unitarian minister. Now, for the first time, they celebrated surrounded by their loved ones. When California began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, Jane and Tami rushed to be a part of the historic moment. Theirs was one of the nearly 4,000 that the Supreme Court declared invalid just five months later.

The next time Jane and Tami legally wed, it was 2005, and they were in Canada for a heterosexual wedding ceremony. When they returned home the United States, however, they were required to pass the national border as single people. Their home nation refused to recognize their union. That held true for seven years, when New York embraced marriage equality. The pair received an official U.S. marriage license, but remained apprehensive that it would last this time.  The were content with this document until they learned the following year that the Utah Attorney General might stop recognizing out-of-state marriages in response to the abolition of state’s ban on gay marriage. Jane and Tami chose to trek to the county clerk’s office and get married within state lines. This fun, unburdened, and simple decision would become their final, eighth marriage.

When the Supreme Court issued its final decision this year, gay marriage finally became what it always was – just marriage. With this development, the United States government finally provided both liberty and justice to Jane and Tami’s long, romantic, and winding pursuit of happiness together.

Read the full story, in Jane Marquardt’s own words, in the Huffington Post here.

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