Jim de S've's absorbing documentary Tying the Knot not only covers the issue of gay marriage, but the little-known history of marriage itself. E. J. Graff, the author of What Is Marriage For?, is interviewed, and observes that, far from the entrenched religious ritual which many, including, of course, hard-core conservatives, have believed marriage to be for 5,000 years, it wasn't until 1215 that it was deemed a sacrament by the Catholic Church. Before that, it was a purely secular ceremony, primarily concerned with property and the pooling of labor. The idea of love only entered the picture later as a legitimate reason for marriage-leading the conversation to same-sex unions, which Graff asserts are worthy of equal regard.

Filmmaker de S've draws intelligent comparisons with the struggle for the acceptance of interracial marriage. He cites the landmark case of Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and a black woman married in 1958 in Washington, D.C., which eventually led to the overturning of anti-miscegenation laws in 1967. The director also gives a voice to those on the opposing side, including President Bush, former Republican congressman Bob Barr, sponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act, and others, who vehemently weigh in with their expected biblical quotations.

The film attains its greatest impact in the most specific cases. An Oklahoma farmer, identified only as Sam, had a lover, Earl, who willed him his ranch when he died in 2000. Earl's largely estranged family descended upon Sam and successfully contested the will on a technicality. Policewoman Lois Marrero, the lover of fellow officer Mickie Mashburn, was shot to death while in the line of duty in a 2001 bank robbery. Mashburn has been fighting for her partner pension from the local police department. These two stories are heartbreaking and make irrefutably strong cases for the recognition of gay marriage. When you see Sam, completely dispossessed, or Mashburn, sobbing as she recounts the day of her lover's death, and the interviews with their friends and co-workers attesting to the ultimate legitimacy of their relationships, there can be no question of justice.

-David Noh