Joe Mirabella

Washington State's Domestic Partnership Law One Year Later

Filed By Joe Mirabella | December 06, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Christmas traditions, domestic partnership, Referendum 71, Washington State

As I removed each ornament from the box I've been keeping them in since I was a kid, I remembered. A tiny book on a gold string with an inscription from my fourth grade teacher, a black and white dog at a typewriter to recognize my childhood dream from my mom, a hand sewn drummer boy mouse named christmas_ornaments.jpg"Joey" from a long lost relative -- they were all carefully placed on the Christmas tree.

Joined with mine, were ornaments whose memories belonged to someone else. A reindeer made out of clothes pins, a duck sitting on a drum, a glittery letter "J", all followed my partner through time.

At the bottom of the box were several hand written notes. I've been writing them to myself since I was a kid. The earliest note was a reminder to be good to my family, "Never forget Mom loves us very much." I wrote as if there were two of me -- one from the past, and one from the future.

As I got older the notes alluded to a secret only the two of us knew about. "Are we happy? I hope so," I wrote when I was 13. It was a secret Christmas wish that only the two of us could understand. Puberty brought a new realization when I was 12. I was far different than anyone else I knew. It was terrifying.

Years later the notes became more optimistic, "I hope we are not alone. Are we?"

When I was a kid I would imagine my future self discovering a way to communicate back in time. Maybe even I would come back and talk to myself. "No, we are not alone" someone would say quickly while passing by.

As I decorated the tree Sunday night, I thought of our ornaments together on the tree, and the scared young men we both were. I imagined my partner's child self and mine both hoping not to be alone, and wished I could go back to them both to tell them it was going to be OK. I wish I could send them a small folded note to tell them that we would both find and love each other.

"I just realized it has been a year since we got our Domestic Partnership," I told my partner as I hung a cow made out of cowbells my parents gave him last year.

"Should we celebrate?" He asked.

"I don't know." For the last year we've both carried state-issued Domestic Partnership cards in our wallets. I have used mine several times to prove our relationship to strangers. "Just look it up. We're supposed to be equal. The law is Chapter 26.60, Revised Code of Washington. It clearly says you can't treat us different," I told my insurance company.

"We'll have to check with our lawyers and call you back," they said.

Or another time with an HR department, "No, the Federal Government does not recognize Domestic Partnerships, but our state does," I said, "It is supposed to be like a marriage, but it is not."

"Well I guess I learn something new every day," she said. "I'll have to tax your benefits as if you were not a couple."

My cat chased the silver garland as I finished the tree. I took out a piece of paper and wrote a note, "Hey. I hope we had a great year. Did we get everything we hoped for? Are we equal yet?"

Who knows? Maybe my future self will figure out a way to send me a reply. "Yes, we are. It was worth the fight. Equality is the most amazing feeling in the world. I can't wait for you to experience it."


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When we moved to DC, I left all of my Christmas decorations in storage in Indiana. One of my biggest worries about moving was whether or not all of my childhood decorations I made would be ruined.

I hope that all of Bil's childhood creations made/make it in perfect shape to DC.

Thank you Joe for this piece. As soon as I read it, I got out of my chair, went to the hallway, climbed to the top shelf of the storage closet, pulled down three dusty plastic bags, and carried them to the dining table by the big window. Somehow, someway, some of my Christmas ornaments survived 45 years of moving coast to coast & to & from Puerto Rico from California. It is collection that covers my adult gay life, including 25 years with my one true love, and a couple shorter stints with lesser loves. Lots of memories in those dusty bags.

Each one was wrapped in yellowed pages of the San Juan Star, Friday, January 12, 1996. That was the last time I saw them. Since then, I have been single & have not celebrated Christmas. The only ones that made me teary eyed were the ones from 1965 when I was 22, new in love, and got my first apartment. I had no money, but found a box of 12 pearlescent white balls with glitter applied like fish scales for $2.00 in a 5 & 10 on the north side of my hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. The glitter has changed color, but they are so beautiful & full of memories.

Now, let me think about how I'm going to celebrate again. Thanks Joe.

That is very touching. Thank you for sharing your story.

Thank you for the beautiful post, I to hope that WA moves to full equality sooner then latter, as it is a shame that as a state we are still held as separate and supposedly equal, but really not. It is such a shame to be a hop and skip away from real legal equality (Canada) and not have it your self.

PS congrats on your one year domestic partnership anniversary.