Friday, October 06, 2006

Small Legal Words

On the morning of my brother's wedding, he knocked on the door of my childhood bedroom at my parents house. I hadn't slept well the night before and was trying to have a little rest before heading off to the hotel where my future sister-in-law would be getting ready for the wedding. He wanted to ask me to be in charge of something rather important and I was ready for the task. Whatever he needed me to do, right? My brother's wedding day-- I was ready for anything.

He asked me to be in charge of the marriage license, and I do have to say, I was flattered to be in charge of this task. It seemed pretty heady, so I asked to see the papers to make sure I could direct everyone correctly. There were three copies that needed to be filled out-- the most impressive was the first one with the gold seal of the county my brother lives in. When he left, I looked at the pages further. A marriage license. I'd never inspected one in such detail, and even though to most people, it might be just more mundane paperwork, to me it was an artifact of interest.

My partner joined me on the bed to look at the papers. I know we were both thinking the same thing. She said to me, "Maybe one day we'll get one." I sighed. She put her head on my shoulder and continued, "And then we'll have a big party."

Sometimes I dismiss all this malarky about gay marriage and I think, I don't need a license or state recognition to love Partner. I just do. I know that we're terribly in love with each other-- I know that we're lucky with the love we have each other. And does it matter that the State won't recognize it? It wouldn't make me any more or less in love or committed.

But when I think about Cricket, or any other "real life" situation, I know it matters horribly. We just closed on the new loan for the new house this past Friday. Luckily the title agent we work with was on top of things and realized that some of the wording was incorrect on our title work. We were listed as tenants in common, and she correctly identified that wasn't right and changed it for us: joint tenants in common with rights of survivorship. Hm. Small thing one might think, but for us, small legal words matter. She made sure the wording was changed-- but still, even the modified documents are comfortless. Everywhere on the paperwork it referred to us individually as separate and as "a single woman." And every time I saw it, it smacked untrue and insanely cheerless to me, not because being single is such, but because I am definitively not single.

Yesterday, as you might know, an appeals court in California overturned a lower court's opinion that the ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional. Alas. The arguments used by the group that brought the case are pretty disingenuous to me. Matthew Staver, who argued the case, said, “The marital union of a man and a woman uniquely fosters responsible procreation, contributes to the continuing well-being of men and women, to society, to children and to the state. Same-sex relationships by definition and nature cannot constitute marriage.”

Unpacking now: I wonder what responsible procreation is here? Is it procreation only when a couple are married? So if a couple has a child out of wedlock, and then proposes to get married, perhaps they should be denied as well, as the initial baby making was pretty damn irresponsible, eh? (Please, please, please read the irony in my tone there. I don't really believe that.) One might wonder what else constitutes responsible procreation: sex only in missionary style? Sex only to procreate and for that purpose only? Don't enjoy yourselves too much, folks, at times when you aren't at your peak of fertility because that's just damn irresponsible. Oh. And wait. There's that little word, "fertility"-- should we only be letting the fertile men marry fertile women? I'm skipping down a road now that Margaret Atwood may have already traversed in The Handmaid's Tale.

And just what about exclusively heterosexual marriage endemically creates continued well being for women, men, and children? In the words of a greater woman that I can dream of becoming, "Ain't I a woman?" I'm not sure that limiting marriage is contributing at all to my general well being. Certainly when I wake up at 2:00 am, wondering where we'll get the money to go see a lawyer about parental rights and guardianship and what a quagmire we're entering merely because we're two women who love each other and want to have a family is not contributing to my well being. The stomach acid I feel when I think of how some people want to deny my growing family basic rights is not good either.

Staver might feel that our relationship by definition can't be marriage, but I think our relationship by definition can't be anything but. "Any close or intimate association or union" "A blending or matching of different elements or components" Like two pieces of wood in a sturdy piece of furniture are married together, I know that's what we are. I know that a piece of paper won't make it more real for me, but the small legal words would mean something to many other people, including our Cricket.

Last Saturday, I stood at beautiful old table with the priest and my other Brother, N, and I felt the enormity of signing as a witness for my brother and new sister-in-law's marriage. I only hope that some day soon we'll get to have that party Partner said we'd have and they can return the favor and sign for us.

They can all sign for us.

15 Comments:

Blogger NMsurrogate said...

The "responsible procreation" argument is crap. Sorry, can't be eloquent when I am mad. Gay couples have possibly THE MOST RESPONSIBLE procreation due to the amount of planning and work it takes to bring a child into the world or adopt a child. It isn't just a piece of paper when legal rights to your children are at stake. I hope that you get that piece of paper and the HUGE party someday. I really do.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Career Guy said...

Kathy and I were talking about this today--marriage licenses, not gay marriage per se. In our day, we would kid ourselves that it was "just a piece of paper". We didn't "need" a piece of paper to confirm that we loved each other. Well, we did. There is something about formalizing the union that cemented our bond, symbolized and then locked in our commitment for the past 35 years. If someone told us that we could not have that piece of paper, I think our lives would have been very different. It would have colored our relationship to the world outside our little world. Anyway, whenever the spectre of gay marriage is raised (every election season), my response is "why not?" Half of straight couples get divorced. Can gays do any worse?

10:13 PM  
Anonymous Erin said...

Since I don't even have fun when I'm at my most fertile, thanks to the IUIs, does that mean I'm being extremely responsible?

I have never understood the argument that gay marriage undermines heterosexual marriages and is pointless because it's not a "union for procreation". First of all, why should anyone say "No" when a couple is in love and wants to commit themselves to each other before witnesses? How is that ever a bad thing? Next, how exactly does it undermine my marriage as a heterosexual couple? Still not sure on that one. And if marriage is only for the purposes of procreation, should J and I be getting divorced because we probably won't be able to procreate again? What about couples who are childfree by choice? Should they be denied marriage licenses as well?

I hope you and Partner get to have that piece of paper someday. I really, truly do. No one should be denying that to you.

1:22 AM  
Blogger Wendy & Karen said...

I agree wholeheartedly that a piece of paper doesn't make our love any more real AND yet that piece of paper does have a world of meaning and "privilege" associated with it that we, as same sex couples, are denied. I really want to know what people are so afraid of if they let us marry. The arguments I've heard are so lame as to be laughable. I want to share that piece of paper with my partner too. And, I hope that one day, when it is possible for us all to have the right, that we all have a gigantic party to celebrate! - Karen

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been in several weddings... I have NEVER felt so much love, compassion, and sense of something greater then attending your cermony. I know that a document can acheive piece of mind but please know what you both have is something so special.. Everytime you are faced with legal jargon just take a moment and remember that sunny day when the entire room was buzzing with your passion and love for one another. Although many have the document..they can never seem to find what you already have..love.

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Jenn said...

I've never heard one decent arguement to ban gay marriage. Most are based in hate and fear. It breaks my heart for you not to be able to have some of the basic rights so many of us take for granted.

7:53 PM  
Blogger Patti said...

I agree with everyone here. There's absolutely no reason that people regardless of age, sex, race, religion...you name it...shouldn't be able to get married, if they so choose.

I hope someday -- someday soon -- your government recognizes that right and .

If not, you can always come up to Toronto and do it. Won't change the legal words issues down there, but it'd be fun nonetheless. :)

5:49 PM  
Blogger Nico said...

I live in Massachusetts. Our state is still here. I haven't heard of any hetero marriages that have been broken up because gay marriage is now legal here. I don't feel threatened when I walk down the street.

I truly hope that someday the rest of the country gets rid of its prejudice, and comes to join us.

10:56 PM  
Blogger DD said...

If it was only a "piece of paper," heteros wouldn't bother. If it wasn't for the political strings and the religious horn blowing, you would have that "piece of paper," because no one yet has ever come up with a truly valid and justifiable reason to not allow you to have a legal marriage.

I hope as well that you will some day get that chance. Not just for Cricket's sake; but for all of you. You deserve it so much more than the majority of the man/woman unions that have ever been, or that will ever be.

8:16 PM  
Blogger frog said...

Well, now you've made me cry. I glare at you!

I was at your ceremony, too, and i second what Anon said above. There's no question in my heart or mind that you and P are a family already.

If only I had the power to make it so, legally.

7:44 AM  
Blogger Trista said...

It isn't just a piece of paper. It isn't. When Kristin and I signed our marriage lisence in San Francisco. When we signed our certificate... when we recieved it in the mail. It was something BIG. Even though we knew that it wasn't honored here in Utah. And when they took it away it broke my heart into tiny pieces. Funny, my mixed CD has something of this in it...

Anyway, do you read Star Evelina? As I read her posts and looked at her wedding pictures, it set up a restlessness within me. I WANT THAT. Not because I can't have it. Not because I want to destroy society as we know it. And not even because I want the legal security. But because I want everyone to have to acknowledge our love for each other. I'm tired of being ignored, demonized, nullified, anulled...

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It makes me so sad when our courts do something they know is wrong. I think after all the policial fallout over Massachusetts ("activist judges"), other judges are to scared to truly say what is and is not constitutional on this issue. It's been wonderful to experience the wedding+legality here in Mass (thanks for the nod, Trista), but it's also weirdly off-putting in some ways. Like, when we went to New Hampshire for our honeymoon, our unmarriedness felt totally ironic. And with the anti-marriage ballot initiative coming up in November in our state legislature- the only reason it was approved was because (really, it's an illegal proposal because it seeks to overturn a judicial decision), is because it bans same-sex marriage in the future but leaves ours "in tact". Firstly, it would be so sickeningly weird to consider myself married, but to have that right over younger gay people here who will want that right in the future. Secondly, it's bullshit, because there is no way that we would still be recognized as married after that, even if we carried our marriage certificate around to show the date and a copy of the law that says we're exempt- no hospital staff or insurance agent or employer would understand it. So, anyway, you're right about all this, of course. And I hope your big party is coming soon.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Gandksmom said...

I am so with you on this one. Cheryl and I couldn't be any more married, but damn it, I want it recognized by the state. We had a committment ceremony because it was important to me that friends and family saw us make this commitment to each other in front of God and everyone. But it's not the same.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous pixi said...

Amen.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Manuela said...

Come to Canada... get married here!

siiigggh...

I know, I know... it probably doesn't mean as much when you know that the union won't be recognized in your own country. So sad...

It's so funny, too... Mr.P and I aren't married... it doesn't mean that much to us... but the irony is that we have the LUXURY of not having it mean anything if that's what we choose... it's easy for us to say, "bah... we're the same as married", because society already treats us as though we are. I can only IMAGINE how much it would mean to me... if we were told by the laws of our country... that we aren't recognized as being equals to other couples... or that the law would not ALLOW us to make our union official.

It just sucks donkey bollocks... and it makes me so damn angry that you aren't afforded the same rights as everyone else.

8:04 PM  

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