Monday, November 05, 2012

Minnesota, Vote No and Welcome our Gay Friends to "The Club"

A little over 11 years ago I married my best friend, a right and a privilege I took for granted. I didn't want to get married, and was not the kind of girl who grew up dreaming of Prince Charming and a white dress and living happily ever after. Instead, I channeled Mae West and embraced her famous quote, "Marriage is a fine institution, but I'm not ready for an institution." It wasn't that I wasn't in love, I just thought the marriage certificate was a fine way of ruining a perfectly good relationship. Living in sin was much more my style anyway; bonus, I secretly enjoyed pissing my parents off. So, you might ask, what happened to change my mind?

 Buying a house together as two single individuals was a pain in the arse. We didn't qualify for the level of mortgage that we would have if our incomes were seen as one. Then there was an employment hiccup that left one of us with a potential health insurance coverage; neither of our employers at that time recognized our domestic partnership. Finally there was a little incident at a hospital when Nurse Ratchet denied me access to see the love of my life because I was not the next of kin. There are over 1100 federal benefits afforded to married couples, and more through state, local, and private organizations, that are not given to those who do not or are not allow to get married. We have a very romantic love story, but when it came to getting married we did it for purely financial and practical reasons.

What happened next surprised me. Everyone always says "we won't change after we get married" and let me tell you, that's bull. Things change. What changes most is how people treat you, how seriously they take you and your relationship, and the expectations everyone has of you. Then we changed; even as independent as we both were, we were a team and we were expected to stick together even when the chips were down and the team was losing. We couldn't just walk away when things got too hard and it wasn't just because of the legal piece of paper; we would be letting down everyone who shared in our day, who promised to help us through, who saw us declare "until death do us part."

After 11 years of wedded bliss I am again questioning whether I want to be married. It's not that I'm unhappy with the relationship, I am unhappy with this feeling that I belong to some exclusive club that many of my friends are not allowed to join because they are gay. Mom always made us invite all the kids in class to our birthday parties; my first lesson in banning exclusiveness. I've never been one to participate in organizations bar membership from others and denying people the social, economic, and emotional benefits of marriage because who they love is just another form of discrimination. Some opponents of gay marriage say it will destroy traditional marriage, I feel the opposite. Marriage is cheapened by not allowing every loving couple the right to marry, the opportunity to declare themselves a team in front of their families and their government, and the ability to capitalize on the protections and safety nets we have in society to try and keep relationships stable. It makes marriage it less special.

I'm embarrassed that I took the right to get married for granted. I never wanted to get married, I never wanted children, I did it simply because it made getting a mortgage and other benefits easier. I almost called the wedding off a dozen times because traditional marriage scared and disgusted me; I saw other people's marriages and I wanted none of them. Yet, with this hate and disdain for marriage I had no problem marching to city hall with my passport and cash and obtain a wedding license. Now, 11 years later, I realize what an amazing gift that moment was, and wish everyone the opportunity to find someone they love and experience that moment, regardless of sexual orientation.

 A few days before our wedding, when I was strategically planning our escape route, my fiancee looked at me and said "life is just too hard to go at it alone, we are a team and I want to declare that team in front of everyone we love. If you don't want to sign the marriage certificate I understand, but you shouldn't be scared. Our marriage doesn't have to be like anyone else's, we will make it ours." The Constitution supported my right to get married even though I don't believe in god or organized religion, I wasn't having children, and I refused to take my husband's name. Our marriage is not traditional, but it is ours, and every couple deserves a shot at that regardless of who they love.  Vote No, Minnesota, "the club" is big enough for all of us.

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