Queer Issue 2012
In the spring of 2008, California started issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples after the California Supreme Court voted to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Two months later, my guy Jake and I found ourselves in Los Angeles, where we happily made good on our years-earlier pronouncement that "when the time comes that we can get married, we'll do it." We got our marriage license at the Beverly Hills courthouse where O. J. Simpson was acquitted of murder, and then signed it at a Beverly Hills restaurant before an audience of our parents, both sets of which had flown across the country on short notice to attend. Between the fully legal license and the weepy toasts from our dads, Jake and I found ourselves in the middle of something that felt like—and was—an honest-to-God wedding.
In November 2008, California voters reversed the state court's decision by approving Proposition 8, which again restricted marriage to the union of one man and one woman. But Prop 8 wasn't retroactive, so it didn't invalidate any of the 18,000 same-sex marriages created during the window of eligibility. It just turned our marriage into a novelty item. Jake takes issue with this characterization, though. He says our California marriage is less like a novelty item and more like a commemorative plate: something real and valuable that was available for a while, but they're not making anymore.
Disappointing, but we knew what we were getting into, and we were happy to be early conscripts in a battle that we were ready to watch unfold over the rest of our natural lives, as marriage equality works its way through all the state-by-state hubbub en route to the United States Supreme Court. Plus, we were busy being married, which, after seven years of living together, was less about Jake and me and more about our big new families of in-laws. Want to know what being married feels like? Go to Costco with your father-in-law. Help navigate your mother-in-law out of a wheelchair and into a car. Let your siblings-in-law hug you while you sob after your dog dies. As much as any judicial decision or commemorative-plate legal document, this accumulation of tiny personal family moments, from the mundane to the dramatic, helped bring into being what I now unapologetically call my marriage.
Now it's 2012. Earlier this year, the Washington State Legislature voted to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples, and now our state has got its own Prop 8 on its hands: Referendum 74, which puts the legislature's same-sex-marriage-supporting decision up to a popular vote this November. Historically, gay marriage has always, always been defeated at the ballot box, but if enough Washington voters vote yes on R-74, this state will become the first state to break the streak.
This is exciting. Being part of a history-making march toward justice is exciting, and should a majority of Washington State voters agree that extending marriage rights to same-sex couples is the right thing to do, I will weep with joy.
But even so, I'm watching this whole season of furious fundraising, impassioned pleas, and eventual triumph or defeat from a slight distance. Maybe the ickiness of putting minority rights up to popular vote is eclipsed by the potential glory of distinguishing Washington State as an early arriver on the right side of history. I don't know. The fact is, I can't get emotionally involved every time my marriage is put up to a fucking vote. I can't get excited about something as fundamental as equal rights being decided by a popularity contest or purchased through superior fund-raising. The Washington State Legislature did the right thing by approving marriage equality, and eventually the US Supreme Court will, too. Until then, good luck.