My Marriage License
This gay man got a marriage license in Seattle last week. Unfortunately, I only obtained it by agreeing to marry a lesbian.
According to the Seattle Times--and King County Executive Ron Sims and Lambda Legal's Jamie Pedersen--I'm to "blame" for Sims and local gay rights groups finally getting off their asses and actually doing something about gay marriage. And how did I accomplish that? By showing up at the King County Administration Building last week and obtaining--obtaining, not just asking for, but actually getting--a marriage license. There it is, right on this page, in all of its sanctity-of-marriage glory. It's got my name on it, and Ron Sims' name, and King County's seal.
I may be the only openly gay man in Washington State who has a legal marriage license. Unfortunately, it's not a license to marry my boyfriend--the guy I've lived with for 10 years, the guy I started a family with, the guy I'm still crazy about--but a license to marry my coworker, Amy Jenniges. As much as I enjoy working with her, I'm not going to leave my boyfriend for Amy.
If Sims and Pedersen want to blame me for forcing them to actually do something, fine. I accept the blame. However, let the record show that it was never my intention to sue the county, as they told the Seattle Times. Yes, it's true I obtained a marriage license. But I wasn't planning to make myself the center of a lawsuit.
So why did I apply for a marriage license last week? To make a point about the absurdity of our state's marriage laws.
Amy Jenniges lives with her girlfriend, Sonia, and I live with my boyfriend, Terry. Last Friday I accompanied Amy and Sonia to room 403, the licensing division, at the King County Administration Building. When Amy and Sonia asked the clerk for a marriage license, the clerk turned white. You could see, "Oh my God, the gay activists are here!" running through her head. County clerks in the marriage license office had been warned to expect gay couples sooner or later, but I guess this particular clerk didn't expect us to show up five minutes before closing on Friday.
The clerk called over her manager, a nice older white man, who explained that Amy and Sonia couldn't have a marriage license. So I asked if Amy and I could have one--even though I'm gay and live with my boyfriend, and Amy's a lesbian and lives with her girlfriend. We emphasized to the clerk and her manager that Amy and I don't live together, we don't love each other, we don't plan to have kids together, and we're going to go on living and sleeping with our same-sex partners after we get married. So could we still get a marriage license?
"Sure," the license-department manager said, "If you've got $54, you can have a marriage license."
The nervous clerk spelled our names wrong on the first marriage license she printed out, and when she tried to correct it, her computer crashed. So another clerk took care of us--a nice woman who appeared to be a lesbian and who got the joke. She issued us our marriage license while her manager watched.
"He's been keeping an eye on me for weeks," she said. "He's afraid I'll up and issue a license to a same-sex couple."
Her manager broke in: "If it were up to me, I'd give you a license," he said to Amy and Sonia. "But we've got to change that law first."
The nice, might-be-a-lesbian clerk told us that she was relieved that a same-sex couple had finally shown up and asked for a marriage license.
"The media calls every day and asks, 'Have any come yet?' We were beginning to think that no one was ever going to show up."
Us too--which is why we decided to take matters into our own hands. Like I said, Amy and Sonia and I didn't show up at the county building last Friday because we were planning to sue. We came to make a point about the absurdity of our marriage laws. Amy can't marry Sonia, I can't marry Terry--why? Because the sanctity of marriage must be protected from the queers! But Amy and I can get a marriage license--and into a sham marriage, if we care to, a joke marriage, one that I promise you won't produce children. And we can do this with the state's blessing--why? Because one of us is a man and one of us is a woman. Who cares that one of us is a gay man and one of us is a lesbian? So marriage is to be protected from the homos--unless the homos marry each other.
Is it putting too fine a point on it to say that this is a pretty fucked-up situation?
Finally, almost as maddening as the fact that the county will issue me and Amy a marriage license but not Amy and Sonia, is the fact that we were, according to the people we spoke with at the county, the first same-sex couple that showed up asking for a marriage license. We've been beating up the straight politicians for weeks on this issue but now I have to ask: What the hell is wrong with the queers in this town? We sat in our offices waiting for someone to call for a demonstration, trying to be good media types and report on the news instead of trying to make it. But eventually we got tired of waiting and Amy Jenniges wrote a call to arms in last week's Stranger, a call that led to Monday morning's demonstration in the county building. Our call to arms and the hard work of Brian Peters evidently freaked the shit out of Sims and led to the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of six gay couples. Great. About time. But this should have happened weeks ago.
Anyway, we're happy there's finally been some action. And I'm happy to have a "marriage license." It's not the marriage license I'd like to have, of course. But, still, let me count my blessings: I have a 10-year relationship (but not the marriage license), a house (but not the marriage license), a kid (but not the marriage license), and my boyfriend's credit-card bills (but not the marriage license). I don't know what a guy has to do around here to get the marriage license. But I guess it's some consolation that I can get a meaningless one anytime I like, just so long as I bring along a woman I don't love and my $54.