Maddie and I met Sarah & Dawn at the Atlanta book talk where we were working the line telling people to submit their stories already. And I’m so profoundly grateful that Sarah submitted this story because it’s so important on so many levels. Sarah dives into why we get married. She talks about why legally recognized marriage is important for everyone. And she talks about deciding if marriage is right for you, and how that can change over time.
My partner and I have been together for almost six years. Over the years, a lot has happened that made us “feel” like we were married: lived together, moved states together, gone through a mess of family crap together, gone though immigration bullshit together, mourned the loss of our insanely sweet pet together, bought a car together, put one of us through school together, drove across the country together. And still, we’re together! We make an awesome team and are crazy in love with each other. And so, I unceremoniously moved from calling her my girlfriend to my partner, at some point I don’t even know when. And yet, I kind of hate calling her that. I know some folks may get down with the title, but it doesn’t feel right to me. We’re not a business. I run my own business and when I’m out and about I want it clear when I introduce her: this is my wife not my business partner.
The trouble was I didn’t feel like I could just make that switch overnight. That didn’t feel right either. Neither of us really wanted a wedding though—or truthfully, we didn’t feel like we needed a wedding. We were together and that was all that mattered, right? We love each other and I firmly trust in that and know we’ll do whatever it takes together to make it happen. Plus, neither of us had dreamed of a wedding, ever. We didn’t come with childhood fantasies about this or that happening. When I would bring up exploring the option of having a wedding, she would say, essentially, she could go either way on it. She already felt married so it wasn’t so important to her. But, over time, it became important to me. More aptly, the moment became really important to me. I needed a moment, a concrete memory, so I could remember when I made a commitment to her, and she to me, that we are sticking in this together. I wanted to recall that specific day and remember what she said and what I said and remember what it felt like and what the weather was like and if I was nervous or cold or jittery or just crazy excited!
About this time, I had this line down that was slipping off of my tongue a little too easily. Buying a pair of prescription glasses, they ask me, “Are you married?” I reply, “For the purposes of insurance, yes but legally, no.” Checking into the doctor, filling out the form, same line. Picking up a prescription at the drug store, same line. For any type of legal paperwork, I had to a quick mental jog to figure out *why* they wanted to know if I was married and answer appropriately. We are lucky that her employer offers SSDP benefits so I’m on her insurance plan. But SSDP sounds like some sort of court ordered monitor to me. I scrapped that title and took on the line since it was lesser of the two. Are you married? I’m her same sex domestic partner. What? No thanks. Where is the love in that title? I want to be married. I wanted to just say “yes” and have them figure out what it means for their paperwork and I’ll just walk away in my bliss. It’s not my problem. You figure it out.
It was decided then. We’ll have a wedding. It pretty much went down like that, too. I realized that I needed that moment. I told her I wanted that moment, it was important to me, and she, while drinking coffee one morning, just said okay. No rings. No big hoopla or surprise. No down on one knee. No who will propose to whom. Just an agreement that we’ll do it. I was stoked! When we would tell people we’re getting married, they always ask how it went down or let me see the ring. And we tell them, we just decided. No rings. We probably won’t even exchange rings at the ceremony. We just want the moment.
What I didn’t fully grasp was how this moment would be so important to more people than just us. After all these years, our families have seen us grow from just dating to living together to knowing this is the person we will be with until the end. But it just happened. There was no moment when she became “Aunt Dawn” instead of just “Dawn.” There was no moment for my parents when she became their daughter-in-law rather than just my girlfriend. It’s like I just looked around one day and said wait. She is all of those things. And to just declare it one day, without any ceremony, just felt like I was cheapening how big a deal this was for us. So we were tasked with figuring out what we wanted our wedding to be and who, if anyone, would be invited.
Fortunately, (insert huge cheer and crazy big grins) legal marriages on the state level are an option now. We live in a state that would not legally recognize a same-sex marriage so our option would have been to travel to another state or to Canada. Since she’s a Canadian citizen, that sounds like a lovely idea but for immigration reasons, it’s not an option for us unless we want to move to Canada and, right now, we don’t. We’d also like to have some say in the matter of where we move and when rather than just getting kicked out so, while states legalizing gay marriage is a-w-e-s-o-m-e; it’s not enough. It needs to be recognized on the federal level for all the reasons we know. Yet, even if immigration was not an issue, having a courthouse wedding in one of those states still wouldn’t feel right.
I want the person who says we’re married to be able to say that it is true in more than just a few states. For us, going to a courthouse to have someone we don’t know declare us married only within a set of arbitrary boundaries of state lines, wasn’t enough. Being “sometimes” legally married wasn’t cutting it. It’s legal here but not legal there. No way. Then I’m back to the, “For the purposes of insurance, yes, but legally, no” chatter. When I say I will be there beside my wife until the end, I want it to be heard and be declared by someone who believes and knows it to be true no matter where we go. And that person, is our people. They are the ones who will have our backs and know that no matter where our road leads us, we’re married and she’s my wife. That’s going to be an awesome moment. Now, give me the ability to marry and have it recognized on the federal level and we’d be first in line at the courthouse! I’ll take that memory, too. Any day of the week.
Photo by: Sarah & Dawn’s personal collection