|Sporting a blue
sweatshirt, Janis Astor del Valle, director of the Green Street Arts Center,
gathers with others featured in the film, "Marriage Makes a Word of
Difference,” which promotes marriage equality in Connecticut. Astor del
Valle's wife, Amy Myers, is pictured in the brown sweatshirt. The film's
director Fran Rzeznik is on the far right.
When the Hartford-based organization Love Makes a Family (LMF) was looking
for interesting stories about how same-sex couples met, Green Street Arts Director Janis Astor del Valle’s wife Amy Joy Myers sent in the
unique story of their first meeting as childhood friends.
The couple didn’t know at the time that they were going to be featured in a
44-minute film titled “Marriage Makes a Word of Difference” promoting
marriage equality in Connecticut. In fact, a picture of the couple on their
June 2007 wedding day is the sole image on the DVD’s menu screen (pictured
at left). The film
was shown to the Wesleyan community on April 10, 2008 as part of the
organization’s outreach efforts.
Those who were in the audience at the film’s screening learned that Astor
del Valle and Myers met in rural New Milford, Connecticut, when Janis’s
family moved there from Bronx, NY. Myers’s family members were the only
African-Americans on the block and Astor del Valle’s were the only
“I love to tell the story about how I met Amy. It’s my favorite story to
tell,” Astor del Valle says.
One of six couples featured in the film, Astor del Valle and Myers speak
about the excitement and tensions surrounding the announcement of their
intentions to marry one another, the love and support from their friends and
family members on their wedding day and the lingering frustration they feel
because they cannot legally marry in the state of Connecticut.
Astor del Valle says the designation of a civil union is “just not good
enough,” and asks “Why should we be treated any differently?”
In the film, Astor del Valle says “If we’re good enough to pay taxes and to
serve our country—to vote, to teach … then we are good enough to be
“We all bleed red,” she said.
Astor del Valle says that she often speaks with people who say that they
didn’t realize that there was a difference between the two legal
designations of relationships.
There are several distinct differences between civil unions and marriages,
one, of course, being that civil unions are only applicable to same-sex
couples. Couples legally united in a civil union cannot file federal taxes
jointly. If one partner is injured out of the couple’s home state, the other
partner may not be entitled to make medical decisions on the injured
partner’s behalf or visit him or her in the hospital. If one partner dies,
the other is not able to collect Social Security benefits or veteran
LMF supports marriage equality by lobbying state legislators on a regular
basis. They also do outreach to community organizations and non-governmental
groups. Having a documentary-style film of several couples in different
stages of life--with and without children—helps the organization tell the
stories of Connecticut residents to various groups without them having to be
there in person.
Carol Buckheit, LMF’s associate director, says the target audience of the
film is “people who have yet to make up their minds regarding whether
same-sex couples should have the right to marry. For others who are already
supportive of this right, our hope is that the film emboldens them to become
vocal advocates for marriage equality, starting simply by having
conversations with friends, family, co-workers [and] fellow students.”
“Marriage Makes a Word of Difference” made its way to the Wesleyan campus
through the efforts of Vicky Graham, an athletic trainer at Wesleyan who
also volunteers for LMF. She contacted several on-campus student groups to
sponsor the film screening. The Queer Social Committee, Spectrum, Queer
Intern and Hermes agreed to her request.
The film was first screened for the six featured couples at Green Street
Arts Center. Astor del Valle says viewing the film for the first time “was
an incredible feeling.”
“We were just so moved and touched by everyone’s story. Some of the
struggles we had, some other couples had ten times worse,” she says.
Upcoming film screenings are available at