It’s the 12th of June. We’ve been legally married for 10 days now. I don’t feel any more married than I did before, though we were told, immediately after getting the deed done, that now if we split up we’d have to get divorced like everyone else. That made us laugh.
In 2003 my life changed for good, in both senses of that word. It got infinitely better and was also altered for all time. I met K, and life changed. Ours is a true love story. Girl meets girl, they fall madly in love, they buy a house, they do their own marriage ceremony on a far off Hawaiian island because it’s not legal where they live anyway and Hawaii was the perfect spot, they return home and have a party with their families and friends to celebrate both the purchase of their first home together and their union, and bliss ensues, even if it’s not legally wedded bliss.
Flash forward five years and Oregon gets Domestic Partnership. We already considered ourselves married, but this was a step toward legal recognition, so I marched over to the County Clerk‘s desk (I worked for the county so it wasn’t a long jaunt), filled out the form, took it home for K to sign, paid the fee, and tah-da! we were suddenly legally domestically partnered. Soon after we got a letter from the state of Oregon telling us we now had to file our state taxes together. However, we still couldn’t file together federally so we had to do a fake federal return every year to go with the real Oregon return we filed. Hilarious, and annoying.
A couple of years later K got sick, and not long after that I did. Both required hospitalization and nearer to death than we’d like experiences. Both times the hospital staff were very nice to us, as a couple, and even complimented us on our relationship, saying we were more devoted to each other than many couples they’d seen together. But, they also asked us, in the middle of emotional crisis, to call our attorney and have him fax over our legal paperwork, which we’d done not long after we bought our house together, to protect ourselves and our relationship because we couldn’t get protections through legal marriage. They said that they didn’t perceive an issue, but just in case, to be safe, we should get that paperwork on file with the hospital so we could make decisions for each other. We were glad we had that paperwork, but slightly upset we had to go through all that, on top of everything else that was going on, during very hard times. But, you do what you have to, even if other couples don’t have to.
We continued to live our blissfully un-legally married lives. We got dogs (who we still have and adore more than we could ever explain), we bought rental properties, took vacations, took a motorcycle class and then bought motorcycles, got into kayaking and started doing that, went to dinners with friends and celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, visited our families, worked in the yard, eventually moved to another state, set up a new house, spent time with our grandson (and then, as of last year, grandsons), bought and sold cars, sold that first house we’d bought together those years ago (ironically the sale happened during our 10th anniversary road trip), and loved each other the whole way. We are still loving each other, the whole way.
Suddenly, or actually not so suddenly, this year, an amazing thing happened, marriage became legal. Huh? And, Yeah!
The subject of marriage equality, in our normal every day lives, rarely ever came up. We were living as a married couple, thought of ourselves as a married couple, and have been treated like a married couple by our families and friends for years. But, we were never legally married. We were married in every way that counted, save for that one. Once in a while we’d talk about it, about being legal, about getting to be the same as everyone else we knew, as our brothers and sisters had been able to, as our parents had been able to, as many of our friends had been able to. Something they all took for granted. Meet someone you love, marry them, settle down. For us it was never that easy, we had never been allowed do it. We were barred from it though we were expected to pay our taxes like everyone else, without getting all the benefit those taxes are supposed to ensure. Rubbish. It was rubbish, but there was nothing we could do about it, not really. So we’d talk about it once in awhile, get disgruntled, I’d sometimes cry, and we’d move on to other more important things, like what to make for dinner and the logistics of taking the car in for service and what we were going to do on the weekend when we spent time with the kids and the grand boys. Life stuff. Tangible stuff.
Then, as I said, marriage happened. So, the day after it was legal here in Illinois, we again marched down to yet another County Clerk’s office to, as we’d read we could, to trade in our Oregon Domestic Partnership for an actual marriage certificate. We walked into the building joking with each other, laughing, saying hey, wanna get married? We walked up to the counter, whipped out our domestic partnership paperwork, and were immediately told no. It was a kind and polite no, but a no none the less. They said IF we’d had an Illinois Civil Union we could trade that in, and trade up, but not with our domestic partnership stuff. I was, as is per usual, ready to accept it and ask for a marriage license so we could get married, K was not deterred, as is per usual for her (thank goodness!). She said she’d read it on the state website, that we should be able to it, and that the conversion should be, as stated on the state website, backdated to our domestic partnership date. The clerk went back to talk to the actual County Clerk, more than once, who finally came out to chat with us. He again said no, but by then I was onboard and explained that Oregon’s Domestic Partnership was legally binding, just like Illinois’ Civil Unions were, and that we were even required to file taxes together in Oregon. He smiled and said this was the first time they’d run into a situation like this, as it was all new to them as well, and he had to go make a call. A bit later he came back, said we were correct, that Oregon’s was legally binding, and that they would indeed convert our domestic partnership to a marriage certificate backdated to our domestic partnership date. He congratulated us, shook our hands, as other people in the office also congratulated us. So did the heterosexual couple standing at the window next to us who was applying for their own marriage license. Everyone was pretty awesome. About 15 minutes later there we were, walking out with two legal copies of our marriage certificate, dated 2008. We were, suddenly, after all this time, legally married. We smiled, we giggled, and… I cried. Of course I did.
Now, looking back on it all, the legalization has changed nothing in our day-to-day lives. We made dinner that night, we chatted with K’s parents, who were visiting us at the time, we called our tree guy about a damaged limb we need to get removed, we snuggled our pups, held our grandsons, and did a million other things we do every day, every week, and have done every year since we met and fell in love. It hasn’t changed us, but somehow the light is a bit brighter, the wind is a bit sweeter, and the world is strangely a tad more solid under our feet. We are married. We are legally married. We are suddenly, miraculously, the same, afforded the same privileges and pains in the ass as every other legally married couple. And yes… if we ever decide to split up, we will have to get divorced. I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that won’t happen, but the fact that we would have to get divorced means a lot. We take on the good with the bad, the consequences with the privileges, we take it all. Because we, my friends, are now in the same boat as every other married couple we know. We’ve traded up. Traded up to a marriage we already had.