More than Just a Check in the Mail
(another chapter of The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage)
May 7th, 2005
It speaks volumes when the government won’t even take your money; a check arrived in the mail from Multnomah County, a sixty dollar refund of our marriage license fee paid a year ago, and held in fiscal limbo until Li V. State of Oregon decided the three thousand same-sex marriages were null, void, and legally nonexistent, resulting in our fee being spat back at us with a tersely worded explanation without so much as a “we regret to inform you.”
You’d think that after being refused the right to marry or even be civilly united with each other for seventeen years, and then, after being given the opportunity to legally marry, to have that marriage publicly debated, voted against, and finally annulled by the state and declared legally nonexistent, as if they could wipe the memories of our marriage clean, we would be impervious to pain.
But getting our sixty dollars back made me cry.
Oh, I could have cried over a million other things that day: the pouring rain, my red and dripping nose, our two sons with pneumonia coughing on the couch, not enough time in the day to care for sick kids, an even sicker spouse (sleeping the afternoon away upstairs under a pile of blankets and a pound of dirty Kleenex), our numerous pets and my mental state; but I am made of tough stuff.
The check hammered home what I know unconsciously every day, that we, my love and I, are lesser citizens under the law; they won’t even take our money, we are so unworthy.
Is it such a huge leap to understand that we are human, that we fall in love, hope, dream, and work for a future, just like any other two adults choosing to spend their lives together, ‘til death do they part, forever and ever, amen? It is hard for me to understand why legal protections for our unions, for our children, for our intentions in terms of wills, property, hospital visitation, and custody, are denied us when it has been decades since we were officially stamped “normal” by the American Psychiatric Association, and declared just another healthy variation on the human animal.
Morally, we’re trying to do the right thing: to quit living in sin and get married. Ethically, we’re trying to meet our spousal and parental responsibilities by ensuring security in the relationship via legal protections. Socially, we are eager to strengthen the fabric of society by marrying within the arms of family, friends, community, and our church of choice. Where did we go wrong?
By being two women who fell in love with each other.
I wasn’t the only formerly-married gay person crying over the mail. We heard through the grapevine that other couples were finding it just as bitter a pill to swallow. When we got a mailer from Tiffany & Company the next day, Jannine picked it up and muttered, “What, do they want your ring back, too?” And went on to grumble about whether Multnomah County expects all the merchants to refund the money they made from tuxedo rentals, flower arrangements, matching rings, wedding cakes, and lingerie as a result of all those licenses.
Not that the check from Multnomah County was really a refund. We didn’t want our money back. We didn’t return a faulty product; we had a perfectly lovely product, our legal marriage, ripped from us, and were then informed that we shouldn’t have been allowed it in the first place, and even, perhaps, that this is what we get for daring to want it at all. It was enough to make a grown woman cry.