The Many Types
Of Marriage

Marriage may be a centuries-old institution, but couples today are making it their own, reshaping it according to their individual personalities and their shared beliefs. They are choosing when they marry, whether they get hitched in their teens or wait until their 40s. They are rethinking how they marry, with some looking to their faith to strengthen their bond and others challenging the basic principles of marriage (monogamy, anyone?). And they are standing up for whom they marry, inviting us all to examine our ideas of what marriage really means. Take a peek into the lives of these nine couples that have vowed to love, honor, and cherish - and created their own visions of the ultimate commitment.

(page 7 of 9)

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

GINA AND HEIDI NORTONSMITH, BOTH 43 NORTHAMPTON, MA

Courtesy of SubjectGina, a classroom aide for students with disabilities, and Heidi, executive director of an emergency food pantry, were plaintiffs in the historic lawsuit that led to same-sex marriage becoming legal in Massachusetts. After 14 years together, they were legally married in May 2004 with their sons Avery, now 11, and Quinn, now 8, by their sides.

Why marriage?

"The most important reason we wanted to get married is that we love each other, and we wanted to be responsible for and to each other," says Gina. "No one knows Heidi as I do — what her fears are, her hopes, her dreams. I know what she wants if she is unable to make decisions for herself. I know what she wants for our children. And she knows those things about me. Marriage makes us feel secure in our relationship and ensures that those wishes will be respected. It is a public statement of our love and commitment."

To honor and cherish

"I don't think we ever take our marriage for granted, even on a daily basis," says Heidi. "We know how precious and vulnerable it is, how easy it is to just be complacent." Adds Gina: "Some people think that we were not honoring marriage by pursuing the lawsuit. But the complete opposite is true, because we saw marriage as a way to protect our family and to stand up and have our community recognize us as a serious relationship. It wasn't because we were dishonoring what marriage can be, in its highest form. It was because we wanted to be part of something that we honored very deeply."

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