My dear friend Rebecca recently got engaged to her incredible partner Laurel and it stirred up a lot of emotions, many of which were filled with sadness and frustration because their union, their love for one another is not accepted by the government. Inequality rages on and on in this country and I hope that in my lifetime I see an end to this blatant and ugly discrimination. She wrote so eloquently that I asked for permission to re-post her thoughts her on my blog.
May 11, 2012,
the woman I have loved for as little as two years and as long as a lifetime
gave me a diamond ring and asked me to marry her. What should have been one of
the happiest moments of my life surprised and touched me—but mostly left me
with a host of unanswered questions. Such as, what did all this mean? Now that
I wore a sparkly antique (circa 1930s) diamond ring on my left hand ring
finger—was I engaged? Was the woman that I had slept next to, sneezing and
snoring during colds and bouts of seasonal allergies for more than a year, now
my fiancé? After thinking of and referring to her as my partner for some time
now, wasn’t fiancé a bit of a backwards step? When before we had already
arrived at the linguistic mecca of gay relationships—partnership (life partner,
domestic partner, etc.) now we were engaged to become something else. And what
was that something else?
What does it mean to be engaged for a queer girl who lives in a state that is not
or Massachusetts or even Iowa?
After seeing the picture of my beautiful ring, friends and family members
uttered all the phrases generally bestowed upon straight betrotheds. “Mazel
Tov!” “Congratulations!” “Have you set the date?” Even a waitress taking my
credit card asked if I would be changing my name. And I am grateful for all of
my friends and family who love me and accept my relationship and act like it is
the same as their own.
But what no one is saying is that it is not. Mine is different. I cannot get married. I can’t. It’s illegal. Marrying the woman I love is as illegal as abortion pre-Roe v. Wade (and even post, in some places today). It’s as illegal as smoking marijuana (which ironically is also conferred limited legal rights in a similar handful of states). You have to go to a different office for this special prescription, and though many people nod politely in conversations about legalization, medical marijuana doesn’t hold the same place in the family medicine cabinet as Tylenol PM and Benadryl. And regardless of state statutes, in the eyes of the federal government, it is as illegal as cocaine. Just like my marriage.
Did you know that if I send in my jointly filed Oregon state tax return (where limited rights are bestowed upon same sex couples in the form of domestic partnership and medical marijuana is recognized as a controlled medical substance) to the IRS they will send it back and tell me to re-file correctly as single? Because of this foolishness, same sex couples who live in states that allow them to file joint returns, must prepare two separate state returns— one to send to the state and the other to send to the IRS along with their federal forms—marked “single.”
Couldn’t I at least check a box that says “living in sin” or “controlled medical substance?” Nothing is farther from the truth than my being single. Don’t I lay my head next to the same person every night, wake up and reach out my hand to touch her arm, listen for her sleeping breath, make her meals and pack her lunches, pool our finances, discuss and agree upon major expenditures like refinishing the kitchen cabinets in the house we share together? Don’t I debrief my day with her after work like I witnessed my parents doing when I was growing up? Isn’t that what marriage, partnership is about? Going through life with someone at your side. How am I more single than any of my friends or relatives who do these same things every day? Marking “single” on my tax returns would be dishonest, untruthful. Maybe even tax fraud.
On an occasion that should be momentous and joyous, I am filled with anger. Never before was I so acutely aware of my status as a lesser class citizen. I am not conferred the same rights as my twin brother, my parents, my friends. I tell my partner that I want to wait to get “married” until it’s legal—either federally or at least in the state where we live. “But we could be waiting years, decades, before we see that change,” my faux fiancé says to me, “I don’t want to wait forever.” But for some reason, having a “wedding,” getting “married,” putting on a bridal gown, tossing my bouquet—feel as much like make-believe to me as the games I used to play as a child.
And yet, many, many gay and lesbian couples have had beautiful and meaningful weddings in states that have conferred limited or zero legal rights to them. And that is wonderful. They are part of the solution. They are helping to raise the consciousness of our society, which is what inevitably will get us there. Because if every person, regardless of their politics, has a neighbor, friend, or coworker who has had a “gay wedding,” what remains to protect?
I guess I am just not there yet. I can’t imagine having an engagement party when I am unclear on what I am “engaged” for. I can’t have a bachelorette party when, to the IRS, that is exactly what I am and will always be. And as for the wedding—I have no idea. Maybe my partner will get tired of my philosophizing and the subject will drop off the radar for a little while. I will go through life with a beautiful diamond ring on my left hand ring finger. We will quietly go to the marriage office and file our domestic partnership papers, receiving the right to file two separate versions of our tax returns—one of them fraudulent. And at some point we will have a “ceremony.” We probably won’t call it a wedding, because, well it isn’t. But we will invite our friends and family to share their memories and experiences, celebrate us as individuals and as a union, and toast ourselves and our community for supporting and sustaining a worthy and loving relationship.