Married or Not Here We Come
The date was June 26, 2015 when a friend stopped me and said, “Great Day!” to which I replied, “Yep, have a great day!” Then it dawned on me that she was talking about the SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage. I laughed because while I knew it was an important, historic decision I was so busy being married that I had to make a concise effort to stop and consider that my marriage was now legal in all 50 states. We could take that cross country drive knowing we’d be legit from coast to coast, although there were a few states in which we’d think twice about waving the Pride flag out the window.
I thought back on all the ceremonies I'd had in my life, not because I'd had that many relationships, rather in the ongoing same sex marriage tennis match, the rules kept changing. My first marriage was 1980 at a YMCA Camp to Laura, who unbeknownst to me at the time, was indeed my first love. It was Sadie Hawkins dance night and we got caught up in the moment. To be a clear, the marriage was never consummated, however Laura and I remain friends to this day. Flash forward many years, many girlfriends with whom marriage was never considered, legal or otherwise until the day I met the love of my life. Unlike Laura in 1980 it was 1990 and I was fully aware in the heart pounding, weak kneed way that I was in love for the long haul.
Our first not legal ceremony was in 1998. The argument could be made for why bother but we wanted to make a formal commitment in front of any family willing to show up and our friends. Of all our ceremonies, this most resembled a "real" wedding. Diane officially proposed while we were surfing in Hawaii, with a ring hidden on a chain under her wetsuit. It had all the trappings and emotions of a the real deal including wedding shower, gift registration, carefully chosen invite list, touring reception halls and picking a caterer. I think the only real difference was that the guys were the better dancers and someone had to make a beer run in the middle of the reception as we had underestimated the lesbian softball contingent. It gave us absolutely no protection or rights, instead it publicly announced our commitment to each other and in spite of no papers, we both felt we were married.
Then came July 2003 and our official status as State of California Domestic Partners. This wasn’t really a ceremony so much as gaining legal status although it came with an official looking certificate with a fancy gold seal. Getting that status allowed us to file joint state taxes, visit each other in the hospital or conjugal visits in prison if it came to that, and be eligible for our partner’s employee health care coverage. It felt like a milestone although it didn’t solve what box to check: Married? Single? Divorced? There was no box labeled Domesticated and we still felt like kids seated at the card table at Thanksgiving. Included but not quite.
Flash forward to 2008 when we were finally able to get legally marry in California. At that point we had three kids under the age of six and barely had the energy to get married because we were too busy being not quite legally married. We felt we should support the cause, but if we hadn’t found a babysitter we might not have ever made it to the courthouse.
Then of course came California Prop 8 and suddenly we weren’t married, or were we? In our day to day life, nothing much changed. It wasn’t until my very sad five year old asked, “Why do those mean people with the Yes on 8 stickers think mommies and mommies shouldn't get married?” It was one thing to yank me around in the game of legality ping pong but yanking around my kids was cause to shake off my indifference and do something.
What we did wasn’t all that revolutionary. After all, who with three kids has time to organize a protest march? What we did instead was raise our family in a very open way, never hiding our family dynamic, staying in the Catholic Church and taking every opportunity to show the world our marriage looked pretty much like all the other marriages in town.
We were two adults trying to do the best for their kids, contribute to their community, love each other, be kind and keep moving the ball forward. We did our best not to destroy the institution of marriage because quite frankly, it sounded like allot of work. I just didn’t have the time between volunteering at school, changing diapers, grocery store runs and remembering to feed the dog. I also thought that the Kardashian’s and other reality TV stars could do a much better job of giving marriage a bad name and certainly get better press.
Which brings us to the here and now. Once again June Pride month is upon us and we are still legally married. I hope this time the ruling will stand but there is always the suspicion that one day it might get taken away. In the end love conquered or perhaps it’s like my 10 year old observed when I told him the news of the SCOTUS ruling. “I think people have been watching that show Modern Family and those gays are really funny so more people like the gays now.” Regardless the reason, I will continue to be thankful, raise a glass to all who fought the long hard fight and then eventually I’ll make dinner.
Regina Stoops is a comedian, writer and Autism Mom living with her wife and three kids in the San Francisco Bay Area. Click here to subscribe to her Normal Notes blog.