Monday, October 12, 2015

Anniversaries: reflections on the journey

7 years ago, we married. Just 7 years—a short time, but a lifetime.

Let’s set the scene. In May 2008, the California state Supreme Court was considering whether it was legal to prevent same sex couples from marrying. BP and I had been sharing a home together for 4 years at that point. California had a “domestic partners” policy but we did not want to participate. As our lawyer said, DPs were an unknown entity; they for-certain didn’t bring the benefits of marriage, and they were too new to know what advantage, if any, they provided. To us, both very traditional, DPs were meaningless, simply a legal slip of paper notarized at Kinko’s. They certainly weren’t marriage. So we had an anniversary of the date we moved in together.

We were gay. We were used to being less-than, a subject of hysteria on the political scene. We just wanted to stay under the radar and live our lives in peace.

Then the unexpected happened. One of my students told me, “The Court overturned the ban! you can marry BP!”

I phoned BP  at work. “Wanna get married?” I said. “We’ll talk,” she said. So we talked. We talked over and around. “You haven’t proposed,” she said. so I did. And then she proposed to me. And we thought, okay, we’ll get married! Our lawyer was not a fan, saying “you are entering a legal limbo. Thanks to the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as far as the federal government is concerned, you are still single.” But we insisted.

By then the hideous Proposition 8, intended to amend the state Constitution to block marriages, was on the ballot. Having little faith in our fellow Californians, we made sure to marry before election day, and I have told you elsewhere how amazing that was. We had never expected the possibility of marriage. It was remarkable.

Sure enough, PropH8, as we call it, passed. We were one of 18,000 couples who got in before.

Naturally, it wound up in court. First, the State Supreme Court decided with regret that Prop8 was legal under the laws of California. However, because it had not been in effect when we married, the 18,000 would be “grandfathered in.” This was significant, because Prop8 supporters had asked for the 18,000 marriages to be annulled; it wasn’t until May 2009 that we knew that we were still married in California.  The sword of Damocles, indeed.

Meanwhile, as I have detailed here, BP was moving from her Roman Catholic roots to become an Episcopalian. And in 2010, our Bishop approved blessings of same sex couples. In Feb 2011, we had an intimate celebration of the blessing of our marriage in the Cathedral. We had never expected the possibility of blessing in church. It was remarkable.

Then Prop8 went to federal court, under US constitutional grounds. The land-breaking Perry case worked its way through district court, where there was a powerful trial at which equality opponents could find hardly any witnesses on their side; the court of appeals, and ultimately to the US Supreme Court who punted the case on a technicality so that in summer of 2013 marriage came back to same sex couples in CA.

More significant for us, however, was the other case the court decided that summer: Windsor, which was a challenge to DOMA that had prevented recognition of Edie Windsor’s marriage leading to death duties when her wife died. The Court, in a stirring opinion by Justice Kennedy, decided that DOMA ’s provision that made our marriage federally invisible, was unconstitutional. In 2013, then, we suddenly became “really” married, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. We had never expected the possibility of federal recognition. It was remarkable!

Fueled by the Windsor decision, same sex couples across the country challenged marriage bans and court by court, they fell, with the SCOTUS content to watch. Only when one court of many decided to uphold a ban did the Supreme Court take up a consolidated marriage equality case, Obergefell, from Jim Obergefell’s effort to have his name listed on his husband’s death certificate in Ohio. Another opinion from Justice Kennedy, and as of June 2015, now marriage equality exists in all 50 states. We had never expected the possibility of marriage equality in our lifetime. It was remarkable.

Of course, there is still litigation. After all, court cases kept going for years after the Loving decision allowing inter-racial marriages too. But the arc of our 7 years of marriage has been filled not just with our personal joy, but our amazement at living through a time of history that has seen us, finally, equal.

And that is an remarkable journey to have shared.


Erp said...

Hmm, according to Wikipedia, 7th anniversaries are suppose to be celebrated with woolen gifts.

Things have changed with remarkable speed though much still needs to change.

JCF said...

Heh-heh. The ONLY song I know for this occasion!