Stephen Mosher and Pat Dwyer Take Marriage Equality Fight to the Big Screen
Marriage equality in America is still a state-by-state proposition. Though couples can legally marry in some states—including New York—that doesn’t mean their marriages are recognized as valid elsewhere in the country. The new independent film Married and Counting, narrated by George Takei, gives the marriage-equality movement a face. Well, two of them. Stephen Mosher and Pat Dwyer, a longtime couple who met in Texas and moved to New York in the 1980s, decided to spend the year of their twenty-fifth anniversary getting legally married in every state where it was possible. Each wedding had its own theme, its own ring, and its own officiant. Pat and Stephen talked to BlackBook about their marriages and about everything that came along with them.
Can you talk to me about the timeline of the film a little bit, starting from when you first met Allan [Piper, the director of Married and Counting] to when the weddings took place?
Pat Dwyer: The idea started for the wedding tour. We were coming up on our anniversary, and we were trying to think of how we wanted to celebrate in 2011. We said, “Maybe by then New York will have marriage equality,” but since it didn’t pass we thought we’d have a ceremony in New York and then go somewhere else where there was marriage equality and get married there. Because of that original seed had been planted, we decided to go everywhere that marriage was legal and get married. We were in our living room with our friend Marci [who officiated the Iowa wedding] and we were musing about traveling and how most of the places we would go were on the eastern seaboard. In about 45 minutes, Marci had a pad and paper and we had the whole tour mapped out—which places, when, how to make it happen. April 26, 2011 was our 25th anniversar,y and we started to plan the tour in October 2010. Then we started thinking that [the tour] might be an interesting film on marriage equality. I said to Stephen, “What if we got a camera from the store and started filming ourselves and we could make a documentary?” We began to tell our friends about our plan and told them that we were going to film it as a documentary.
Stephen Mosher: Allan is a good friend of ours and was engaged to be married to our friend Jennifer. He was so busy and was editing two or three TV shows, and I didn’t want to bother him, but we called him.
PD: We said, “Allan, we have this idea for a documentary…” and he said, “I’ll do it.” We find out that that very day he had gone to Jennifer to ask if it would be presumptuous if he could ask if he could get involved with our documentary.
The film ends with your hometown New York wedding. How would the film have ended if same-sex marriage had not passed in New York?
SM: We would have made the end of the movie the wedding in Washington, DC, in front of the Supreme Court, saying, “We are going to continue to fight the good fight.”
Are you involved in any activist groups or organizations in NYC?
SM: We went to rallies, gave money to HRC and other organizations. Other than the usual stuff like making phone calls, we were armchair activists. Making the movie changed all that for us. Now we are die-hard, hardcore activists.
PD: During the movie we worked in a phone bank to call state senators in New York and get people to call their representatives in favor of marriage equality.
But do you consider the film a form of activism?
SM: Right now, all our time is spent promoting this film. My job let me off of work so I can do some traveling for the film. We keep supporting those organizations, but as soon as things calm down we intend to get right back to work.
PD: Traveling to support this film is part of the work. Now, we are following the film and traveling the country. There will be a screening in Baltimore to get support for the marriage equality referendum happening in Maryland. We also had [a screening] in North Carolina.
SM: People are more likely to attend a film if the filmmakers are more likely to be there. When we premiered the movie in Rhode Island, there was an elderly woman in the lobby who came up to me and said, “We were at the movie that showed before yours, and someone told us to stay,” so they did, and she hugged me and said, “That movie changed my life.”
If same-sex marriage becomes legalized in other states like Washington, will you get married there, too? Or have you had your fill of weddings?
PD: Yes. Absolutely. Our plan is to keep going. Fortuitously, we’re going to both Tacoma and Seattle for a film festival one month before the vote. They are building a larger event around the screening of the movie.
There are several scenes in the film where you confront family members, including Pat’s parents, who don’t approve of your relationship. Only one of your parents—Stephen’s mom—attended any of your weddings. Have any of your relatives seen the movie?
SM: None of them have seen it, but here’s an interesting thing. A few months ago I had planned to be in Dallas for a wedding, but we got accepted to the Austin LGBT film festival during the time I had already planned to be there. So my mom and some of my relatives are coming to attend the Texas premiere of the film. None of them have seen it, so they don’t know how significant my mom’s part in the film is. I am really looking forward to seeing their reactions.
PD: I had a cousin who attended the Coney Island screening—first cousin once removed. She’s a costumer in the theater, so she’s very cool.
SM: And a roller derby queen!
I think it’s pretty clear that you want marriage equality in the whole country. But what are your other goals for the film?
SM: We want at least one Academy Award. But we want to take this film as far as we can and change as many lives as we can. We want to give young gay people a beacon of hope that they can meet someone and stay with them for a quarter of a century.
PD: We just want to get the movie seen until it lands on big screens or on HBO/Showtime.
SM: I want to be a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race!
Follow Lilit Marcus on Twitter.