Love

I’m actually sitting here at a loss for words.  Shocking.  Yesterday I was jumping up and down, crying, pumping my fists in the air, and trying to mouth the words, “it passed!” to K who was on the phone in a meeting for work.  It was a comedy of sorts.  She involved in her meeting, me jumping and crying and trying to shout without saying a word.  She mouthed the words, “what’s up?” and I just kept whispering that it passed.  We had a mini failure to communicate until she just asked the person on the phone to wait a second, held her hand over the headset mic, and said, “what’s going on?”.  I could then finally answer aloud.  “It passed!  It passed!”  She got excited, had to tell the person she was on the phone with what I’d just said.  Finally, we could semi celebrate together.  When she got off the phone we hugged each other.  I was still crying.

I spent over two hours yesterday with headphones on, computer tabbed to the state house feed, listening and watching the debate about the Illinois marriage bill.  It was infuriating, enlightening, glorious, encouraging, a tad scary at times, and ultimately wonderful.  Whether people said things I agreed with, or not, it was fascinating to watch and listen to the process.  When the vote finally came it happened so fast it was almost anticlimactic.  They vote electronically so it took less than 10 seconds.  Bam.  Done.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on this.  After all, there are many people, who for religious reasons, feel my right to marry who I love is wrong.  And, oh well.  I don’t expect people to agree.  It’s a divisive issue.  Always has been.  I see it as the civil rights issue of our time, and others see it as a religious issue.  I could argue that, as I have in the past on this blog, but today I won’t.  Today I guess maybe I want to write about love.

I am in love.  Since April of 2003, and if I really admit it to myself it was probably a couple of months earlier, I’ve been in love.  In the beginning I was scared as hell.  Me being in love with a woman was not something my family would expect and at that point didn’t know anything about.  So I was scared.  In love, but scared.  Would they accept her, would they cast me out, would they turn their backs or talk behind mine?  One of the reasons I kept being gay a secret for so long was because I didn’t want to go from being Tam to being gay Tam.  Because whether people mean to or not, that’s exactly what happens.  You suddenly become something different from what you were to other people.  Not always in a bad way, but different none the less.  I didn’t want that first perceived difference, until I met her, and then I didn’t want to keep it a secret or hide her from everyone in my life.  I wanted her to be a part of my family.  I wanted to live a whole and authentic life and to do that I had to tell my truth.  So I did.  And yes, I became gay Tam.  But then — then I was just Tam again.

A lot happened right after the coming out thing, as you can imagine, but what mostly happened was a whole bunch of acceptance and love.  Love.  I have friends who are pretty religious people, but they still loved me.  One of them, a super spiritual Christian guy, came to see me in person and ended up telling me he loved me, no matter what, and that it wasn’t his job to judge or condemn me.  You know, the judge not lest ye be judged thing.  I love him for that.   I respect him for that.  And I respect his beliefs.  We differ, but that’s OK.  My grandmother, who my mom elected to tell (with my permission of course) said, and I quote, it was about time I came out.  ha ha ha!  That still makes me smile and laugh.  She’d suspected, she kind of already knew, she was OK with it, and had been impatient for me to just say it already.

Love.

I think I was surprised at how well people just sort of accepted K into our family, into our lives.  Friends I’d had forever accepted her as well.  People treated us as if we were just like every other couple.  Because, you know, we were.  We are.  We’re the same — mortgage, dogs, making dinner, working, pulling weeds in the garden, going for walks, taking vacations, watching dumb television shows, having the occasional argument, babysitting the grand boys, grocery shopping.  Same.  We love.  We are loved.

I’m lucky.  I know this.  When I say it’s not every day people find the kind of relationship we have, I mean anyone.  Gay, straight, somewhere in the middle.  People strive for this, this thing we have.  This absolute certainty that we are.  We are more than just meant for each other or made for each other or any of that.  We are.  Simple.  When I met her it was as if everything snapped into place, an audible click.  Home.  I still feel that way.  Lucky.

Yes, alright — we argue and somehow she puts up with me when I get too emotional.  I put up with her need to do a million things at once which sometimes leads to her not listening as well as I’d like.  We do struggle at times.  Of course we do.  We aren’t perfect.  What’s great is that no matter how much we struggle or how angry we get or how hard things sometimes feel there’s never a feeling of wanting to end it, or go, or take a break, or any of that.  The tough stuff always makes us stronger as a couple if we let it.  We let it.  We can’t imagine our lives without each other in them.

We’re lucky.

Love.

We’ve already been married twice.  To each other.  This makes me smile.  The first time we got married we were alone on a beach in Hawaii.  We’d purchased rings and found our spot and did it ourselves.  Words spoken, rings exchanged, happy tears shed, poetry, and a sand ceremony she’d surprised me with.  We still have that bottle of sand.  We’ve considered ourselves married since then.   I think, really, we’ve considered ourselves married since that first date.  I know I was.  It’s why we count our anniversaries from then.  But the ceremony in Hawaii was a real marriage for us.  Maybe not sanctified or certified or papered in any way, but real none the less.  The second time we got married Oregon had just passed a domestic partnership law.  I worked for a county in Oregon at the time so during a break I walked down to the proper desk, paid the fee, we filled out the paperwork, and a week later there it was, our certificate of domestic partnership.  Not really a marriage, but a legal thing, even if it seemed slightly empty in a way.  We laughed, but at least that, combined with the $1600 in paperwork we’d done with an attorney, sort of protected us as a couple.  Sort of.  I say this because later, when at different times we were each hospitalized, we had to give the hospital with our powers of attorney, etc. so that we could make decisions for each other.  It added a stress regular couples don’t have to deal with.  Nothing like worrying if you’ll be kicked out of your wife’s room because she isn’t legally your wife.  Luckily those strangers were kind and gentle and accepting.  So much so one of the nurses mentioned to us how fantastic our relationship was and that she rarely saw a couple so devoted.  It was a compliment.  It was a commentary.  It spoke directly to the we that is us.

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Love.

We’ve never had an actual ceremony in front of people.  A ceremony the kids and my mom and my brothers and sisters and K’s brother and sister and parents and our friends, etc., etc., could attend.  As a young woman I never thought I’d be able to have a wedding.  It was so far out of the consciousness I literally never even imagined it.  Later, K and I vowed not to do it until/unless it became federally legal.  Our paperwork and our own private marriage were what we’ve had.  And on one hand they’ve been enough.  The hand that says we don’t need anyone telling us our relationship is valid and important and real.  We know it is.  We live it and feel it every day.  On the other hand not being able to legally wed has denied us many rights other couples who can get married enjoy and take for granted every day.  Some of those rights legal, like getting the same rights for the taxes we pay, and some human, like being recognized in the same way as all other couples who love each other and last are when they are married.

And again, I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything here.  I’m just speaking to my own personal experience.  Yesterday, when marriage happened for us in Illinois, I cried.  I cried because it’s another step toward being culturally real.  Toward begin a part of something bigger than just us.  It’s being looked at, from the outside, as legit and meaningful in the same ways as other couples who are devoted to each other, who have taken that step.  It means my mom can be at my wedding, the kids can be there, our family and friends can be there.  It means we can celebrate and rejoice and affirm the love we have and have had for each other for over 10 years and our families and friends can hug us and share in that moment.  I means all the same protections and privileges will then apply to us.  It means inclusion, not exclusion.  And it means so much more than I can even put into words.  Which, as I said in the beginning of this, sometimes fail me.

Love.

There is nothing more important in this life than the people we love and who love us.  Period, the end.  Love is beautiful and special and precious and real.  Man, woman, gay or straight.  Ours is.  Our love for each other and our love for the people in our lives.  This latest happening in Illinois is a victory for love.  It’s very existence has advanced us, as a species.  It’s propelled us a bit closer toward a place and time when all people will be loved and accepted and celebrated for who they are.  A time and a place that’s hopefully not too far off in the future.  Love always wins.  Eventually.  Love of our spouses, our children, our families, our friends, our fellow man and woman.  I believe this.

I believe in love.

A Win For Love

Today the Supreme Court ruled DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional.  Love wins.

The liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause contains within it the prohibition against denying to any person the equal protection of the laws. […] While the Fifth Amendment itself withdraws from Government the power to degrade or demean in the way this law does, the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment makes that Fifth Amendment right all the more specific and all the better understood and preserved.

The class to which DOMA directs its restrictions and restraints are those persons who are joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State. DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.  ~ Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority

 

Where All Men and Women Are Not Created Equally

We pay taxes.  A lot of taxes actually.  More than our share.  Why?  Because we are not recognized as a couple and therefore must file separately.  The system is set up, for us anyway, so that we actually have to file a dummy federal income tax return with our state tax return, in both states where we own property.  We consider ourselves married.  Have been together for over 9 years now.  Work and continue to support the economy.  Give to charity. Own property.  We try to buy local, support the farms in our area, and we are good citizens.  We follow the rules, never hurt anyone, haven’t been arrested.  We love our families, our friends, and each other.  Apparently, that’s all not enough.  And apparently we are legally obligated to pay an extra $2000 in taxes without getting all the benefits and rights afforded to couples who don’t happen to be the same sex.  Apparently of the people, by the people, and for the people doesn’t include us as “the people”.  This angers me.

I haven’t spoken out much on this topic until now because honestly we just go about our lives.  Our lives are full and lovely, which takes most of our attention.  But when something like what just happened in North Carolina happens, we talk about it.  We are outraged.  And frankly, a tad stunned.   We know there are haters out there.  And they can say that they are just concerned for the sanctity of marriage, but common, they hate.  How else can you justify completely obliterating someone else’s civil rights?  You don’t do something like that out of love and concern, you do it out of fear and hate.

There have been oh so many conversations, statements to the press, position clarifying notices, etc. and I’m sick of all of it.  What this comes down to is the basic undermining of a whole segment of the populations civil rights.  And don’t be mistaken, this is a civil rights issue.  If it weren’t we wouldn’t be paying more taxes than we should.  If it was only about the sanctity of marriage there would be, at least, federal civil unions that would include us, take us into consideration, honor our love of this country.  But there isn’t… and here we are.  North Carolina doesn’t only ban same sex marriage, they get rid of civil unions as well.  Sanctity of marriage?  Yeah right.

I could go on and on about how we are the same as everyone else… but I won’t.  No one listens to that.  To the people who would, and do, slam the door in our face there’s not a lot of listening happening anyway.  I don’t understand this, but there it is.  I was raised to treat people as you would be treated.  I was raised to be considerate and kind and generous and tolerant and caring.  I was raised to believe that until you walk in someone’s shoes you should never judge them.  I was raised to give people the benefit of the doubt and to try and understand all sides before going off half cocked.  I was raised to do unto others and judge not lest ye be judged.  The funny thing is I was raised by an atheist and an agnostic.  I was raised without religion in my life, except during those incredibly judgmental visits to an evangelical grandmother who, as I got older and really saw her, treated my wonderful little brother like a piece of trash.  I have no idea why.  She played favorites.  I was a favorite, he was not.  When this realization hit home, when I finally saw her and her behavior I stayed with her less and less.  Until I didn’t stay with her anymore at all.  I also stayed with her less and less because she would tell fire and brimstone stories trying to scare me into believing.  She referred to my mother as that “heathen” woman.  I now realize she was bitter and angry and felt as though life took her in a direction or directions she didn’t really want to go.  It does not justify her behavior.  It was appalling.

This is not to say that I don’t like religion.  It has not always been kind to the ones I love, and those wielding it have not always been kind to me either.  But I’m interested in it.  Sort of fascinated by it really.  I respect people of faith who are honest, humble, devout, and spiritual.  I know some fantastic people who are very religious, but who also love me, accept me, support me.  They know they should not speak for God.  They know they shouldn’t judge.  If you are Christian judgement is God’s job.  Not yours.  They know this.  I respect them and their faith.  It’s as big a part of them as being creative is a part of me.  They live it, walk it, talk it, see the world through it, and because they do they have grace.  Grace, by the way, I have not just seen in people who are christian, but that’s a story for another time.  Those people of religion I respect.  I even envy their conviction sometimes.  My fascination with religion lead me to take a few religion classes in college.  What I learned?  All religions hold the “do unto others” golden rule as a basic principle.  Do unto others…. I guess that to some people of religious faith the do unto others only counts if you are exactly like them, believe exactly like them, and love exactly like they want you to.

Marriage.  An institution.  If it were only performed in churches, maybe I would get it.  But nowadays, in these times, marriages are performed by judges and captains of ships as well.  They are legal and binding.  They afford those who are able to marry with certain rights given to them just because they got married.  We had to pay an attorney $1600 to get some of those same rights, and even still we don’t get all of them.  I don’t understand.  If your church pastor doesn’t want to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples, OK, I have no problem with that.  But don’t tell some other pastor of some other church who would be more than willing to marry us that he or she can’t.  Keep your beliefs, your faith, your upholding of what your interpretation of the bible is, but keep that for yourself.  Keep it for your family.  Don’t try decide for me who I can marry, how I should live, or what has meaning for me.  I’ve never understood how one group of people could look at another group of people and have the arrogance to believe they know what’s best for them.  And yes, I know there have been wars, and freedoms purchased with beliefs like that, but I’m not hurting anyone.  It’s like declaring war on a group of pacifists.  We don’t want to fight, or tell you how to live, or what you can or can’t do.  Why should you have the right to tell us?

I’m rambling, but these are the things I think when states, North Carolina in this case, gets involved in my life.  And again I’ll say… it’s a civil rights issue people.  The Constitution of the United States of AmericaArticle IV: Section 2: Clause 1 reads, “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”  Amendment XIV  Section 1 states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” And I’m expected to adhere to Amendment XVI that reads, “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” without being afforded the rights paying those taxes affords most of it’s citizens.  Is this fair or equal?  Not on your life.

The definition… “Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals‘ freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one’s ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.”  Where are mine?  Where are the rights of so many of my friends who are good citizens as well, but who don’t have the civil rights of our neighbors, friends, co-workers, our families.  We are discriminated against.  And we are being repressed.

I guess what it all comes down to, as I know people on the other side of this issue have quotes of their own, interpretations of their own, and their own beliefs about what is and isn’t a right, is that  I’m tired of it.  I live in a country where all men and women aren’t created equally.  I thought we’d be better than this.  We can be.   We can be our best selves if we step out of fear and anger.  It’s possible.  Some day, for most of us, it is possible.  Someday we will live equally.  Someday we will.  I have hope for that.  I am hopeful.  Disappointed, again, but hopeful.  Even if some people of faith and conservative family values may never accept my relationship, it is just that… my relationship.  It infringes on no one.  I just wish, and am, again, hopeful for the day when my rights aren’t infringed on.  I’m hopeful a day will come when all men and women are created equally.  I’m hopeful for a time when people don’t fear my love for my woman and I don’t have to fear being treated differently or hurtfully because of my love for my woman.  I believe that day is coming.  It has to.