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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.
Posted 04.21.08

Green Street's Director Featured in Marriage Equality Film

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 Puerto-Ricans.

“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 married.”

“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 benefits payments.

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 http://www.lmfct.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Marriage_Makes_a_Word_of_Difference.
 

By Corrina Kerr, associate director of media relations. Group photo by Glenn Koetzner. DVD wedding photo by Roslyn Carrier-Brault.