Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Five Years of Love, Celebration and Sorrow

This morning marks the fifth anniversary of my wife and my wedding ceremony. Not our marriage, which as far as we’re concerned, began twenty-two years ago when we committed to slugging it out together for the long haul, even though we were a Mutt and Jeff couple no one thought would last six weeks, if that long. We were already together seventeen years when we jumped at the chance to get married that rainy Wednesday morning in March, on a moment’s notice, with our three kids along for the ride.

It seemed like a thing unto itself; getting the license and getting married in our church of choice, along with other couples who’d shared our wait in line and our earnest desire to sign on the dotted line if it ever became legal. Despite protesters carrying signs and shouting, it was a perfect morning of hope realized and love expressed and promises kept and renewed. All of us left the church feeling good and married and loving it, even though we weren’t sure it would still be legal by nightfall.

But it was only the beginning. The Multnomah County marriages in Oregon were a second wave of same-sex marriages sweeping the nation; the first were the ones in San Francisco that didn’t really have a legal leg to stand on, but were right nonetheless. Our Oregon marriages were based on legal counsel and a state constitution that seemed to require them; we were cautiously hopeful, and friends and relatives sure that the state couldn’t take away what had already been granted.

We celebrated our wedding with a houseful of friends and relatives toasting us and congratulating us on enjoying equality for the first time.

What I didn’t anticipate was the aftermath. Initially, when I heard of couples who had decided not to get married because they didn’t think the weddings would hold water legally, and that they would lead to trouble, I was judgmental. I wanted all of us to jump at the chance, to show that we would gladly accept the legal contract of marriage in exchange for equality.

Later, I knew better.

Not that I think the marriages “led to trouble” or weakened our cause. I just learned over time that knowing your limits is healthy. Those couples who decided that the emotional risk of getting a license and going through the ceremony with the distinct possibility that it would be taken away again was too much, were right to be hesitant.

The high was so high; for a while, I was floating on the hands of a community raised in support, carrying us. We were a married couple. Equal. I closed my eyes and cruised with the belief that we were understood at last, and welcomed. So the low was just as low, as debate swelled, signatures were gathered, supporters questioned the process and legality, and letters to the editor ate away at our precious thing. Then the election hit us in the gut with a constitutional amendment to keep more couples from getting the chance to marry, and finally our marriages were declared legally non-existent, as if our weddings had never happened and our memories could be wiped clean.

I have a hard time remembering the bliss—and it was pure bliss--of saying vows in front of a crying minister, of walking down an aisle legally married at long last, with the poisonous quotes from our opponents, news snippets about marriage struck down in other states, headlines proclaiming the victory of traditional marriage and ugly letters to the editor cluttering my brain.

What I don’t forget is that I had a wedding with the woman I love, who I’ve considered myself married to for twenty-two years, without any binding contract keeping us there. We’ve been together longer than the majority of legal marriages, and survived a continuing nation-wide character assassination; is questioning our worthiness for marriage anything less? I don’t think I’ll ever push to marry again, should it become legal. The anti-marriage contingent has beaten me; my sour grapes bad taste for legal marriage will probably prevent me from ever considering an aisle walk again with my wife, even if ten, twenty or thirty years from now civil marriage becomes available without the controversy, and our kids are begging us to do it.

I’m proud of living in sin now. Let the legal equity roll across the nation for all the same-sex couples out there and all the couples to come. I believe in it just as much; just not for me. Five years has taken the wedding fever out of this woman, but not the love for her wife. Happy anniversary to that love, which cannot be declared nonexistent by anyone but us.

1 comment:

Mo said...

You sum up our feelings pretty well too. We did not dash out to get domestically partnered when they offered that and probably will not. I've felt pretty quiet and detached from the whole Prop 8 thing, although it would be great if it gets overturned. (BTW, I was reading some of your book posts here, but we finally just went out and bought the book. It is really well-done and I think many of us who got hitched during that March back in 2004 can really relate to it).