Sunday, October 14, 2007

Domestic Partnering in the New Year.

My wife and I were out to dinner last night with one of our fellow Brides of March—another couple who married on that fateful morning in March three years ago when Oregon briefly opened the door to same-sex marriage—when suddenly one of the women said, “We should make plans for January 2nd.”
At first, flustered with the parking machinations necessary to arrive at the restaurant in the Pearl District of Portland, a fashionable part of town replete with purse dogs and Priuses, I was clueless about the allusion. Then, when she went on to hint to her spouse that she was ready for another ring—waggling her third finger suggestively--and her spouse good naturedly griped about her wife’s new desire for sapphires and diamonds, I got it—she was talking about the news that Oregon had survived an attempt to stall the domestic partnership bill from becoming law in 2008.
Naturally I knew—Basic Rights Oregon is on my daily rota of Web-sites-to-visit, and even if I’d forgotten to check on my civil rights that day, my wife had forwarded along an e-mail announcement sent by the glbtq group at her work. What my spouse thought of the decision I didn’t yet know, the last time I’d brought up the issue (mentioning the opponents’ claim that they’d gathered enough signatures to stall the legislation), she metaphorically told me to talk to the hand—she couldn’t jump on another emotional roller coaster like the last time we had faith that equality was possible in our time.
Once burned, far more than twice shy.
Admittedly, during our voyage from newlyweds, to public fodder, to castaways on an island of legal marriage, to the legally voided, I was obsessive compulsive about keeping track of every article, letter to the editor, editorial, and CNN headline about the fate of our marital status. Every sarcastic assertion that Adam and Eve set the standard for romantic love, every suggestion we settle for tolerance instead of equality, every letter in support of our cause by a friendly straight friend was summarized for my wife, who otherwise avoided all media during that ride.
But now, on Wednesday, January 2nd there will be registration forms at the Multnomah County Building, or wherever the powers that be decide we can get a contract for the state rights granted with marriage. Yet, I would bet my booty that by next summer, signatures will be gathering for a people’s initiative to fight the legislation, to repeal domestic partnerships or homogenize them into a contract between any two people residing in the same domicile, no matter the relationship, since to our opponents, as one anti-gay activist once said, “We’re talking about roommates here, people, roommates.”
So the question remains—if you’ve decided to take a leap of faith into the legal system, how do you get domestically partnered? Do you head down to the county building in your Sunday best and go to dinner after? Do you sign on the dotted line and then party with your nearest and dearest, a substitute for the wedding reception that should have been? Do you treat it as you would a visit to the lawyer, just another step to legally protect you as a couple, and drop in during lunch hour with a latte then run back to work?
Perhaps there is room for a new tradition here, domestic partnership rituals that mark the bonding of lovers in legal cohabitation; I see parties focusing on domesticity and kitchen ware, feasts made in the partners’ home, matching aprons or armchairs representing domestic bliss (after Maid Brigade cleans up the place before the party). Big glass jars could become de rigueur at a domestic partnership gathering, as family and friends donate dollars to the deck fund, a hot tub, or finishing the kitchen finally, in order to bless the state sanctioned solidarity of the happy couple.
No celebration should lack cake, and surely an effigy in icing of a happy couple under the banner “Just Partnered” is both a joyous phrase celebrating what we have achieved and a snarky pointed allusion to what we are denied.
If only I could forget the letter enclosing the refund check for our license fee following the state supreme court decision that annulled the Multnomah County marriages that described our marriage license as “void at the time of issue” and be happy that there are legal protections for our family, letting go of the golden ring of marriage, for at least long enough to be happy with what I have. I can but try. I have two months to get used to the idea, talk my wife into another roller coaster ride, and order that cake.

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