When Jason and I had been together for about 5.5 years, we had just found the apartment we would live in together, for the first time, as a couple. It was a quaint little apartment on Willy Street in Madison, with a weird downstairs neighbor, some strange neighborhood folks, and no air conditioning.
I knew at that point that I was planning on marrying Jason, even if we didn’t have specifics in mind, and there was no ring yet. I also knew that since he didn’t have a job at that point, it would be a while before we got married, and that in the meantime, I would legally be no more than his roommate. This bothered me for many reasons, including the fact that if either of us had a medical emergency, we wouldn’t be able to make decisions for the other, even though we had discussed at length what either of us would want in specific situations. It really didn’t jive well with me that if I was in a coma, one or both of my parents would have to make the decision about whether to pull the plug, or whether to bury or cremate me, since Jason was (and probably still is) the only person who knows what I would want in those situations. In fact, it bothered me so much that I wanted to set up living wills for both of us, but for a variety of reasons, that never came to fruition.
To this day, I can’t imagine having someone other than Jason making those decisions for me. Much of the decision to get the piece of paper declaring us “married” had to do with that… the commitment to one another before God happened long before that. (As it should: if your wedding day is some sort of turning point, I’m not sure you should be getting married… but that’s a whole other post for another day.) And honestly, since we had been together for so long, and we had lived together for a year before we married, not much changed in our relationship as we signed our names on that piece of paper. [Do not misunderstand me. I am definitely not saying that marriage is not a big deal. It is. It’s a huge deal. But getting married didn’t change our dynamic, just the legal definition of relationship.] Yet it made a huge difference in terms of how the government, our employers, our insurance companies, and even our families saw us. [I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say feelings were hurt about how birthdays were celebrated based on the presence of a ring, regardless of the history leading up to attaining the ring.]
Suddenly, in terms of what society saw, our relationship was “valid” and recognized as being a “real” relationship. Which is absolutely ludicrous, because in my estimation, the years leading up to our wedding (particularly the time after Jason graduated college) were much tougher and a bigger testament to our commitment to one another than anything we’ve faced since getting married. I refuse to believe that the years before we were married somehow “didn’t count,” since they are the reason we were ultimately able to get married… if anything, the years we put up with one another prior to getting married should be rewarded more heavily than the years since. And if, for whatever reason, we had not been able to get legally married, our relationship would be no less valid than it is today.
To some people, the “issue” of gay marriage is still a big deal, because, for some reason, they think that they should get to tell (any) other human beings who they should (and should not) love. I think it’s a big deal because we’re declaring that one group is somehow beneath or unworthy of a relationship status that the vast majority of people get to enjoy. Marriage is a big deal, and denying someone (anyone) the right to marry the person that they are committed to is not simply cruel and ignorant, but that view also completely ignores what a stable, committed relationship (between consenting adults) can mean to the individuals involved, and society around them.
I love, and like(!), my husband, and I cannot imagine turning to someone who felt the same about their partner and telling him or her that he/she isn’t allowed to have that… regardless of sexual orientation, political affiliations, or skin color.