Joe Mirabella

Why do I have to wait to get married?

Filed By Joe Mirabella | March 15, 2010 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: gay marriage, Iowa, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, Washington

My partner and I are trying to decide when we should get married. We have a Domestic Partnership from Washington State, so we have some basic protections at the state level. Our home state of Iowa opened the door to full equality last April. We happened to be in Iowa at the time because my new nephew was born a about a week before.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled on the last day of our trip, so we picked up the paper work to get a marriage license on our way to the airport. It is notarized and ready to go. The ruling was so new, we had to decide who was going to be husband and who was going to be wife. There was not a gender neutral application available. I put my partner's name as wife while he wasn't looking.

We are so used to our rights being taken away that I wanted to hurry home and tie the knot as fast as possible. We planned to return to Iowa last summer to marry, but some family members still needed a chance to realize they weren't going to hell, just a wedding.

We decided to give those family members a year to get used to the idea. Iowa's constitution makes it very difficult to hurt people. It would take 3 sequential sessions to approve a constitutional amendment before finally sending it to voters. So far the Democratic majority in Iowa has refused to move on the amendment. The Republican Party is doing their best to move one forward. Fortunately their best isn't very good.

So we have time. It isn't an emergency like in some states where if you didn't get married during a 6 week window, you're screwed. You know, like California.

We're talking about doing it this Summer with or without the reluctant family. We're talking about eloping, or having a big party, or having a small party, or just going to the court house, or going to a church....

But then when we think about it, we're reminded that most of our friends and lots of our family live here in Seattle. I can give you a list of beautiful places I would love to get married -- places that really exemplify who we are as a couple, like the Seattle Zen Garden, or on the shores of Puget Sound, or in a remote cabin amongst old growth forest. These all sound great to me, but to get married in Washington we have to wait. We're still in that separate but un-equal stage of history here. Don't get me wrong, it's better than nothing and I fought my ass off to help get us this far. It is just not enough, though.

Who knows when Washington will be ready to approve my marriage rights? We're close, but not there yet. We still need a few percentage points before we should push a bill through. We still need to talk to our friends, families, neighbors, and so on and remind them how desperately we need their help. We need to wait.

He and I could go back to Iowa at any moment and get married. We could do that now. But when we came home, Washington would not recognize it as a marriage at all. If I told someone that I'm married to Joe, they would probably think the same thing I do. "No you're not. You're committed to each other, but you're not married until the state and the country recognize it."

I know that will piss some people off, but that's what I think. I think it automatically when a gay couple says that in a state that does not recognize it. I don't think it is healthy to fool ourselves -- to say we're married when we're not.

So we could go home to Iowa and get married, but then we'd come back to Washington and not be married. What's the point? The party or not party? The gifts? The bullshit congratulations from people who know we're second class citizens? Honestly, I don't know if I could stand it, I really don't.

At the same time I know it will make my partner happy to move forward, and I would love to move forward. I would marry him today, right now, if I could. But I want it for real. I don't want to have to hopscotch across this country skipping states that don't recognize our relationship. I don't want to check single on my taxes. I don't want to choose Domestic Partner on my insurance forms because I live in a state that isn't ready to call our relationship marriage. I want full equality and I want it now.

But I guess I have to wait until you're ready, Washington. Don't I? Well I'm ready when you are.


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We married in my home country, but here in Ireland we have no protections at all.

We've never regretted it.

I know that our marriage certificate is meaningless here. But to be perfectly honest, I don't care. We stood in front of that minister, in a church, in front of twenty or so of the people in our lives who really do fully support us, and pledged to stay together forever. There is somewhere in the world where we are as married as my parents and grandparents are.

I'm married, whether or not Ireland recognises it. That said, it will be nice when my wedding band doesn't prompt an assumption of heterosexuality.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | March 15, 2010 6:56 PM

"It would take 3 sequential sessions to approve a constitutional amendment before finally sending it to voters."

Joe, was the "3" a misprint? I thought that as is the case in Indiana, a proposed Iowa state constituional amendment needs two passes through two consecutively elected legislatures. That's still a lot harder than in most states, where either a single pass or just a popular initiative does the trick.

He and I could go back to Iowa at any moment and get married. We could do that now. But when we came home, Washington would not recognize it as a marriage at all. If I told someone that I'm married to Joe, they would probably think the same thing I do. "No you're not. You're committed to each other, but you're not married until the state and the country recognize it."

I know that will piss some people off, but that's what I think. I think it automatically when a gay couple says that in a state that does not recognize it. I don't think it is healthy to fool ourselves -- to say we're married when we're not.

that sounds to me a lot like the rhetoric the right uses to delegitimize same-sex marriages in states where it's legal and why they always use scare-quotes around the word married when talking about gay people getting married in those states. Don't fool yourself into thinking you're married - I'm sure God doesn't approve!

To me, marriage is both a cultural and a legal institution. And it has different meanings to different people and I know plenty of people who think that they don't need the state to tell them that they're married to know that they are (a church or ceremony might be enough for them), in the same way that trans people who can't get ID's changed in their state don't stop identifying as the gender they are just to show that they don't have a right or because they think they're fooling themselves if they don't get the government's stamp of approval on how they see themselves.

I'm not ever planning on getting married unless it comes with schwag, I'll admit. But I don't really have a problem with people living in areas that haven't legalized same-sex marriage saying they're married. If that's how they interpret their relationship, who am I to dispute?

I don't have a problem with other people choosing to marry in states that don't recognize their relationships. I encourage it. I also am glad people call each other husband and wife, even if they are not legally so. However, I will not call my partner husband until he is my legal husband. I'm not a religious person so a church's blessing will not do it for me. My friends have referred to him as my husband and that does not feel right. I need a piece of paper from the government that tells me we are married for it to feel real. Anything else is imaginary to me. It feels like playing house.

Perhaps I'm just a product of our ridiculous culture and need to evolve beyond these ideas. I want to be brutally honest when I write, so the truth is there. When someone tells me they are married in a state they are not, I reflexively think, "Nope. No you are not. Wish you were, but not yet. Let's keep working."

My Partner and I live in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages. We socialize with alot of heterosexual couples. We have been asked by heterosexual couples what state we were married in. They assumed by the way we present ourselves as a couple we are legally married. My Partner and I are in agreement that we will not call each other husband until we have all the rights other "husbands" have.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | March 15, 2010 7:57 PM

That raises a question, Alex, since my same-sex partner household got its 2010 Census form today. It has several choices in answer to the question "How is Person 1 related to Person 2?"

Among the choices are: "Husband or Wife", "Housemate or Roommate", "Unmarried Partner", and "Other nonrelative".

Since we are Indiana residence, I take the question to mean the status our state recognizes, and I believe we could also respond similarly even if we had gone to a state like Iowa, gotten married there, but then returned to our home here. Some might disagree with the latter.

But there is a dilemma for same-sex couples legally married in their states (or in a state that recognizes those out-of-state marriages. Checking "Husband and Wife" doesn't fit, but there is no "Married" choice.

Also, there is the interesting problem posed by the fact that the form starts with Person 1 (whose only qualification seems to be that he/she is the one filling out the form, then asks how Person 2 is related to person 1, and then goes on to ask how persons 3, 4 (up to 11) are related to person 1. What happens if Persons 3 and 4 are a same-sex couple (for that matter, if they are husband and wife)? They don't even get a chance to identify themselves in a relationship with anyone else but person 1, who might well just be rooming there, but filling out the form so that not even one married/unmarrie couple (let alone 2 or mre couples) get counted. So much for the number of "married/unmarried" households.

Maybe the 2020 census will have something akin to a "groupie" category. But then according to the fundies it would have to include Fido (whether he does or doesn't fill out the form).

I can answer that question Don. You are supposed to mark yourself as the way you identify your relationship. I know this is going to sound extraordinarily hypocritical given my comments and post, but for political purposes you should mark yourself married.

Eric Payne | March 16, 2010 2:33 AM

We live in a state that has a DOMA enshrined into its state constitution that not only denies us the right to marry, but denies any recognition of our relationship as anything but really, really good friends and roommates.

On the census, we are going to indicate ourselves as married, as "spousal" is the best (albeit limited) definition of our relationship.

Rick Sours | March 15, 2010 7:40 PM

My Partner and I have been together for over fourteen years. We had a private commitment ceremony (non-legal) in San Francisco in 1996. We also took part in the mass commitment ceremony held by MCC in Washington DC in the late 1990's. Since we have been together we have lived in three different states. In each state we have had to go a an attorney and have legal documents (ranging from 3 to 5 in number) to ensure our basis rights. We both want the same equal rights as a couple that heterosexual couples have. Even if we were to be legally married we still will not have equal rights. We had very close friends who legally married several years ago. After they married, one of the husbands died prematurely. If they were a heterosexual couple they would have had survivor benefits for retirement; they did not. We want to be legally married but we also want the same rights as our heterosexual
counter-parts.

Although living in DC, we married in California when it was legal. 10 months after our California marriage, DC enacted a law recognizing same sex marriages from anyplace. Finally, last week, DC started performing same sex marriages here also. The answer on what to do will vary from couple to couple. However, it was a great feeling for us to have the ceremony in California with a surprising number of family and friends (after being a couple for over 20 years), even though we knew that when we returned to DC, that it was not then recognized. The remarkable thing to us was that people actually reacted to us a bit differently. There is a societal prejudice (even among gays and lesbians) that without marriage, without the "piece of paper", a couple is not as seriously committed as with marriage. Of course this is foolish, but then human beings are partly foolish. When we travel to New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, (New Hampshire, Vermont, Canada, Spain, etc. (never been to Iowa) we are also married. It's just the reality of these times, one state yes, another state no. However, we are happily committed and are glad that other societies also recognize this when we travel in the USA and in Europe, and we are very happy to have been part of history.

Y'know, just do it. It's not about the party or the gifts or the half-assed well-wishes from bitter old single people who know they'll never see a warm body in bed next to them again. It's about the two of you and whatever kind of committement you choose to make to each other. The family doesnt matter. The friends, ultimately, dont matter. What does matter is that you two just do it for each other. Period.

I just passed two guys walking down P Street, NW near Dupont Circle, here in Washington DC. It's a sunny day, and they each had medium sized matching magnolia buttoniers on. They had to be coming or going to their marriage ceremony. They looked so happy and content. I wished them well, as did almost everyone whom they passed. It was great to see people loving life, and happy with loving each other. I know that it is rather politically incorrect to be pro-marriage on Bilerico, according to the trans police that patrol these comments. However, these are my thoughts.

Rick Sours | March 16, 2010 4:31 PM

Somehow I feel Lesbian and Gay male couples who have gotten married or are thinking of getting married are in a state of denial. Denial in that if you live in a state that does not allow same sex marriage you still do not have equal rights. In my opinion, more important then that is if you are a Lesbian or Gay male couple who works for the federal government you are not entitled to the same rights the federal government has for all other married couples.

If you both are interested in marriage, get married for yourselves, not for society's approval. It's great if you do live in a jurisdiction where your marriage is recognized, but if you do not, I think that it is still was worth marrying in my case. However, be aware that even though you may not reside in a state in which same sex marriage is legal, you still may have legal obligations to each other based upon the law in which the marriage occurred. In other words, marry only if you really mean it.