||A documentary making the case for the legalization of same-sex marriage might not seem the most exciting of prospects, but in the event “Tying the Knot,” while not consistently riveting, not only offers useful information but contains moments of gravity and pathos that genuinely touch the heart.
The film is clearly an activist effort--a legal brief, in effect, for extending the right to wed to those of the same gender. But while a polemic, it’s not polemical in any melodramatic sense; the presentation is, almost consistently, sober and restrained. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s without episodes of great emotional power. The most notable of them involves Sam, a soft-spoken Oklahoma farmer who has survived his long-time partner Earl, only to lose the property they worked together for decades to relatives of the dead man, who take advantage of legal technicalities to evict him. Sam describes, with a kind of grave dignity, their meeting and life together, and one can’t help but sympathize as we watch him abandoning the home they built together, selling off his beloved horses before doing so. This segment of the picture alone makes it worth seeing; certainly viewing it will make one think seriously about the wisdom at least of civil unions, even if the idea of same-sex marriages per se remains a problem for you. Another section recounts the story of two Tampa, Florida policewomen, Mickie Mashburn and Lois Marrero, who lived together for years and even exchanged vows. When Marrero was killed in the line of duty, however, pension regulations turned over survivor’s benefits to her blood relatives rather than her partner.
None of the rest of “Tying the Knot” equals the impact of these episodes. Indeed, the “historical” material, sometimes delivered in straight interview form by legal experts and counselors, isn’t always imaginatively handled, though the sketch of the development of marriage as an institution over the centuries proves entertaining and informative. The treatment of the current politicalization of the subject, on the other hand, seems rather perfunctory, though fairly up-to-date. But good use is made of footage from Europe, where attitudes appear to be far more open-minded.
Still, the important point is that after seeing the picture you’re unlikely to forget some of the people it introduces you to, like Sam and Mickie, or the arguments they personalize. And that makes up for any dull patches.