In life, it’s a dream come true when people encounter the role models who have heavily impacted their careers. Emily Clark, the director and producer of the documentary short, Is Gay Marriage Next? centers on a lesbian couple, Lauren Leslie and Elisabeth Noel Jones, who appeared on the cover of a 2003 Newsweek magazine during a time in which gay marriage was, and continues to be, a divisive and controversial topic for many in the United States and around the world. Clark’s brief but heartfelt film, offers a snapshot of how far society has come to accepting gay marriage while also acknowledging the setbacks – and that there’s still a long way to go towards equality and inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community.
Leslie and Jones are honest and open to Clark about their decision to go public, share their story, and send a photo to Newsweek, leading up to their magazine cover with the title, “Is Gay Marriage Next?” What Clark does particularly well when interviewing both women is sharing their journey with archival images of their respective childhoods, their marriage, and their family members. Despite not being married anymore, Leslie and Jones continue to have a positive bond with each other and their son, along with current relationships and seeing other people.
The film also looks back on how a newspaper industry like Newsweek was one of the most dominant news sources, and while it still is a popular newspaper, social media has expanded on how readers and viewers interpret the news. Clark’s interview with Marcus Mabry, the chief of correspondents for Newsweek, also acknowledges this, along with the fact that gay marriage and same-sex relationships divided many, especially in politics. Clark specifically mentions the disagreements between Republicans and Democrats on gay marriage during George W. Bush’s presidential run in the early 2000s, as well as the overturning of Roe vs. Wade in 2022, which shocked the nation, including Leslie and Jones, in terms of disregarding abortion and women’s right to choose.
For the former couple, Leslie and Jones were content when receiving the call that they would grace the cover of Newsweek in 2003, but were uncertain if people would react negatively and/or positively towards it, given there was no social media during that time, nor did they receive any fan mail. The women even admit that their families believed they might become celebrities, but that wasn’t the case and life went on. However, they were touched by Clark’s admission that she was inspired by their story and their powerful bond of love and acceptance.
While Leslie and Jones weren’t overnight superstars in 2003, their ability to continue loving who they are and inspiring their family, peers, and same-sex couples around the nation is a powerful story that Clark exhibits in full display. The film effectively depicts that gay marriage and same-sex relationships continue to be negatively criticized, but that women like Leslie and Jones and the LGBTQ+ community will continue to move forward and fight on for liberation, especially because they don’t want gay marriage to be the next thing that the Supreme Court eliminates.