Exactly one month after our September 6th wedding, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that, in highly truncated summary, stated that they would not be interfering with state and circuit court decisions regarding marriage equality. It was, to mangle T.S. Eliot, changing everything not with a bang, but a whimper. Not because the action itself was wimpy, but because it wasn’t immediately understood what the consequences would be.
I was working my way through an endless series of special education plans and meetings when Meg emailed me to find out what I thought about the news. I told her, truthfully, that I had no idea what was going on. She spent the next few hours updating me via email with every new piece of information she could find, from lawyer acquaintances, to articles from the Denver Post, and slowly building my incredulous excitement. “I think it’s going to happen, and it might even happen fast!” she said. I took a break to text my wife the news: most likely, we’d be able to get legally married, in the state where we live, within the week.
We weren’t super clear if, like our civil union, we’d pick up the license and then need to take an additional step to solemnize it. We tentatively decided to pick up our marriage license the following Friday and figure out our next steps afterward. Then we spent Thursday night bickering about whether or not we’d have enough time to do everything we had planned for Friday. The spat culminated with Julie snapping, “I don’t want to get married when you’re being so annoying!”
To which I replied, “Too late now, sucker!”
Further consideration of my annoying-ness led us to a plan to pick up our license from the county clerk the following Friday instead.
So, on October 17th, I took the bus downtown to meet my wife at the county clerk’s office. We had some concerns that our application might not be approved: although I filled my information in under the fields marked “Party One” online, the printed form reflected “Kelsey Jean Hopson-Shiller” under “Male.” Also, my name was a source of confusion. I had legally changed it between the time we were Unionized at our wedding and our legal marriage. Would Julie be married to two different people, according to the government, at the end of the day? Fortunately the county clerk’s office proved to be every bit the welcoming, informative place it had been six weeks earlier. “This place looks like a gay bar!” I whispered to Julie as we took a number. There were cute young gentlemen holding hands, an older lesbian couple with a full support team, and several other queer pairs loitering in the waiting room alongside two bemused hetero couples. People were taking selfies by the rainbow banners in the hall. It was all so… festive.
Our assigned clerk was beaming at us when she called our number. “I’m so excited this is happening!” she told us. We asked her our questions about my mistaken gender and my dual identities, and she assured us it would all be just fine. “I love that you took her name!” she enthused, and Julie assured her that we’d end up sharing each others’. She chatted with us about her own upcoming wedding plans, and we showed her the Instagram pictures from our wedding. “Just beautiful…” she sighed.
Then we raised our right hands again and promised we weren’t blood relatives, and she had us sign our names (as party one and party two, respectively) to a very similar piece of paper to the one we had signed several weeks before—except this time, instead of the modern typography that said “Civil Union” in flourishes across the top, this one spelled out State of Colorado, Denver County, Marriage License in gothic serif. Then the very helpful clerk gave us a very brief lesson in self-solemnization, which means you don’t need anyone but the two of you to marry you in Colorado. So, on the line designated for the officiating party on our license, we just printed “Bride and Bride” and handed the nice lady our credit card. And just like the first time, all I could do was laugh and hold Julie’s hand while the clerk made it official.
When we grabbed our big manilla envelope of legally married glory, another clerk came over and asked us excitedly if we’d like for her to take our picture under the arch. Sure, we said.
Now we have one more picture to add to the album of the beautiful, artistically composed professional pictures from our wedding day: a picture a woman from the county clerk’s office took with my phone, under the autumn version of the bridal arch from Steel Magnolias, flattering fluorescent lighting and all, arms around each other’s shoulders, brandishing the paper proof of our legal ties to each other and grinning.
Finally, we stuck our envelope in my big work tote and walked seven blocks to a non-fancy neighborhood Italian place we’d been wanting to try. We sat in the bar and ate oysters and pasta and when the manager brought us some of the house limoncello to try, we thanked her and told her we’d use it to celebrate, because we’d just gotten married again. I didn’t show her our license—but I thought about it.
When I knew that we’d be getting married legally at some point after our wedding, I expected that it would either feel like nothing (we were already married), or everything (because now we actually were). And, as so often happens to me, I was wrong. Legally marrying my gorgeous wife felt like both—giddy excitement because I couldn’t believe it had finally happened, and a sense of “Well, duh” that I couldn’t quite shake.
Of course we were married. We couldn’t be anything else, really. But it was still somehow just as awesome as I’d hoped it would be.