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reed magazine logoSummer 2008

Eve Lyons ’95 and J.L. Woodward

“There is a system, there are people who are outside the system who suffer unconscionable harms and whose family relationships are not respected by law and society,” says Pizer. “Should those people get no help until such time as we can enact the kind of coherently caring society that many of us envision?”

They certainly should be helped, Metz responds: “People are going to say, ‘the gays want marriage and now you want to get rid of it.’ I answer unequivocally that as long as the state is conferring marriage status on straight couples it must make it available to gay and lesbian couples.”

Pizer’s other criticism is pragmatic: such a system of multiple caregiving relationships would create a bureaucratic nightmare. “There’s a tradeoff,” she says, “efficiency and simplicity versus variety and flexibility.” She offers an example. “One person might prefer to designate person A for medical decision making, B for financial, C for custodian of their children. One can imagine a situation where society sets up separate decision making for each individual with respect to the hundreds of situations that might arise. That would require a very large computer.”

We found three Reedie couples in long-term committed relationships who have each chosen different paths: non-marriage, gay marriage, and public commitment ceremony. What they have in common is that they are all grappling with ethical and legal dilemmas in intentional, thoughtful ways.

Amy Catania ’95 and Benjamin Kent ’94 live in Chicago with their two young children, Elijah Brock Catania, 4, and Grace Brock Catania, 19 months. The couple have known each other for 16 years; in fact, they first hooked up on Valentine’s Day in 1992, Amy’s freshman year. They have been a couple—committed, though not always exclusive and monogamous—since then. Amy is at home with the children these days; she has worked as a domestic violence counselor. Ben works in high tech.

They moved to Chicago, Amy’s hometown, several years ago from Portland, where they felt isolated without family support. They now live with Amy’s younger sister, Margaret (who also attended Reed), her husband, and their son, in a duplex the two families purchased in 2006.

The couple’s decision making on marriage has been very intentional. “It’s not that we’re not married because we never decided to get married,” Amy says. “It’s that we decided never to get married.” Amy’s view of marriage came from a strongly feminist mother and her reading of feminist theory at Reed. “I looked at issues of power and the thousands of years of subjugation of women, and to me that was marriage. I wondered if one could consider oneself a feminist and be in a relationship with a man at the same time. And I decided, yes. But it was going to be a lot of work to live out the power in our relationship in a very intentional way. Do we talk about it every day? No. And it’s getting sloppier with kids—we find ourselves falling into sex-segregated gender roles.”

Amy feels lucky—she and the kids get health insurance through an Illinois state plan, so she doesn’t need coverage from Ben’s employer. Still, she’s concerned about Social Security and retirement, now that she’s not working for wages. “We want to see people who take care of each other, who live in community in some form or other, have the financial and legal benefits, regardless of whether it’s a romantic involvement or a family involvement,” she says. “Marriage should be about your religious or cultural belief, taken outside the realm of the state.

“I said when I was growing up that I’d never get married and I’d never have kids,” she continues. “Well, I can still say one of them. I don’t want to be a wife and I don’t need a husband. Wife is not a job title I ever want to have.”

Eve Lyons ’95 and J.L. Woodward have been together since 1998; they met at a statewide labor union convention in Oregon. Within a year, they were in a serious, monogamous relationship, and with Eve heading to Boston for graduate school to become a mental health counselor, they were forced to make some quick decisions. “We jumped into commitment perhaps faster than we intended,” Eve says. “Neither one of us wanted to do long-distance, we didn’t want to live apart, so we moved across the country and moved in together. For a number of years, that was the level of commitment, we lived together and were perfectly happy. Then we started talking about some sort of ceremony.”

By 2004, the Massachusetts Supreme Court had declared gay marriages legal in the state. They settled on an interfaith Jewish wedding—they are observant in their daily life, though J.L., who works as a nanny, is not Jewish. The problem wasn’t finding a reform rabbi who would marry a gay couple, but one who would marry a Jew and a non-Jew.

reed magazine logoSummer 2008