“Five Anniversaries”: On My Same-Sex Marriage(s) -The Toast

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Lindsay King-Miller’s previous work for The Toast can be found here.

1. July 29, 2012

In the months leading up to my wedding to Charlie, more than a few people have asked us, “Wait, is that even legal in Colorado?” Well, no, it won’t be legally recognized in any meaningful sense (we’re already registered with the state as designated beneficiaries, which is the only form of governmental acknowledgment available to us as a same-sex couple). Still, there’s no law that says we can’t have a big party and dress up in white formalwear and make our friends and family watch us promise to love each other forever, so that’s what we’re doing. And we’re doing it here, because Colorado is beautiful and it’s where we live and I love it more than any other place on earth.

The symbolism of a wedding, as much as the excuse to look really fancy and eat amazing food and spend weeks curating the world’s most perfect dance playlist, is what inspires us to go big. We know we want to spend our lives together, and we won’t really be saying anything today that we haven’t already told each other over beer and Thai takeout. But this isn’t just about the vows – it’s about the validation. Our state won’t recognize us as a family, but our loved ones will. We’re asking them to be on our side, to support us not just as two really cool and smart individuals but as a couple, to help us stay together no matter what weird shit happens down the road.

My best friend performs the ceremony. He’s an ordained minister of one of those churches that ordains people over the internet, which doesn’t actually matter because you don’t need any legal accreditation to conduct an extralegal wedding; more importantly, he has a great voice and phenomenal stage presence and loves both of us dearly. We play rock-paper-scissors to determine who gets to say their vows first, and Charlie wins, so I am already teary-eyed by the time I recite mine. But we both spill over when our officiant announces, “By the power vested in me by every person in this room, I pronounce you partners in marriage!” We look around at all the people who love us, laughing and applauding, and there is no part of this that doesn’t feel real.

2. August 6, 2012

wedding stairs

On our honeymoon in Massachusetts, after several days of lounging on the beach in Cape Cod (and a whale-watching excursion on which I very nearly lose my expensive lobster lunch), we get married for the second time. Our officiant this time is a justice of the peace who marries us outside the city hall of a Boston suburb, on a bridge over a little stream that looks very picturesque on the website.

We take three photographs on our entire honeymoon. One is of me on the deck of the whale-watching boat, shortly before I turned green; one is of the short line to pick up our marriage license at City Hall. That brief, bureaucratic encounter leaves me feeling weirdly giddy, like too much caffeine on an empty stomach. Our real wedding was a week ago, but all this paperwork makes it feel so official. We keep the receipt from our marriage license and hang it on our refrigerator back home.

The picturesque little stream has dried up, thanks to a long hot summer. The JOP’s assistant has us pose for pictures standing on the bridge anyway; she just angles them so you can’t see the dried-up mud beneath us. She brings me a bouquet of daisies, which are the flowers we would have had at our wedding had we not decided on paper flowers instead. In most of the pictures you can see my bra strap.

We recite the same vows we said a week ago, and this time – since it’s basically a rerun – I’m able to swallow my tears. Charlie and I are exchanging subtle raised eyebrows over our officiant’s extreme verbosity – I’ve never met anyone who could cram more words into fewer ideas – when all of a sudden she’s saying “By the power vested in me by the state of Massachusetts,” and suddenly my eyes are burning and my emotions are coming out of my face in salt water form again.

I didn’t expect this to matter so much. Getting legally married was supposed to be more or less an afterthought – something we’d rather do than not, as long as we’re in a state where it’s possible, but not particularly a defining moment in our relationship. Yet here I am, happy-crying enough to fill the depleted streambed below me. Suddenly, the fact that an official record exists of our relationship, that a governmental body recognizes us as a family, is hugely significant. We exist. We are seen. We matter.

Afterward, we go out for ice cream. The third photograph we take on our honeymoon is of our hands, intertwined across a table, wearing our mismatched heirloom wedding rings. We’ve been married for a week, or an hour. It’s going really well so far.

3. May 1, 2013

In March, the Colorado state senate passed same-sex civil unions, but they didn’t take effect until today. When the results of the vote came in, I was ecstatic, crying alone in my living room, texting my partner and all my friends while tears streamed down my face. (I cry easily. Have I mentioned that?) That night, Charlie and I went out for a celebratory dinner with my mother at our favorite vegetarian restaurant, and we toasted to progress over barbecued tofu sandwiches, in true lesbian fashion.

Today, however, it feels a little anticlimactic. As a same-sex couple married out of state, Charlie and I are now officially recognized by Colorado as “parties to a civil union.” The language is sexless and sterile – not partners, not spouses. It sounds like what it is: a half-step, a consolation prize. Colorado still has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. While our legal status as “parties” is a symbol of how far my beloved Rocky Mountain state has come since that amendment passed seven years ago, it’s also a stark reminder of what we don’t have yet. It’s a substitute, as almost-satisfying but ultimately disappointing as barbecued tofu.

I write an article about the civil union vote for an LGBTQ website. Everyone I interview about it expresses the same conflicting feelings I’m harboring: a fierce determination to be happy about this step forward, insufficient though it is, battling the temptation to be overwhelmed by what seems certain to be a long, bitter uphill struggle. Also, a certain amount of enjoyment at the frothing and raging of Colorado’s Republicans over the lack of religious exemptions in the bill. Or maybe that last part is just me.

4. June 26, 2013

I sleep in today, because I don’t have to teach until this afternoon, so I am awakened by a buzzing sound next to my bed. It’s a text from my partner that reads: “Good morning! We’re married!”

The Defense of Marriage Act has been defanged by the Supreme Court, and the federal government will now recognize all married couples regardless of whether the state in which they reside does the same. The immediate practical benefits of this to us are few – we’ll be able to file our federal income taxes jointly now (I was already on Charlie’s health insurance). But the sense of optimism that bubbles up in me is enormous. This is how I wanted to feel back in May. We’re moving forward. We’re getting somewhere. I feel like I’m standing on a beach, the tide coming in around my ankles, my body getting incrementally lighter from the toes up.

I call Charlie at work and we laugh and I cry, and then I go to work and pretend not to be jumping out of my skin with excitement and the pressure of how much we still have to do. I teach community college in one of the most conservative cities in my state and I am not out to my students, except those astute enough to read my asymmetrical haircut and devout resistance to discussing my personal life as queerness. So I swallow my nervous energy, my certainty that this decision is bigger than itself, that it will ripple outward in ways both foreseeable and not, that we are standing on the precipice of a changed world, and I talk my class through essay outlines.

On the way home, I stop for a bottle of champagne. Charlie makes us pasta for dinner with yellow squash and basil from our garden. When we eat this meal in the future, we call it Marriage Equality Linguine. It tastes like the brightest part of summer, like late sunsets and possibility.

5. October 7, 2014

For months we’ve been talking about what we’ll do when Colorado officially recognizes our marriage. It’s seemed inevitable since the DOMA decision, but we’re in agreement that it’s probably a long way away – a year or more. “When it happens,” I suggested, “we should throw ourselves a huge bachelor party. We never did that before our wedding.” There are sketchy plans in the works for this epic shindig – laser tag will definitely be involved, as will karaoke – all under the assumption that we’ll have months to save up for it, because Colorado isn’t getting hip to gay marriage anytime that soon.

So then yesterday the Supreme Court declined to review the circuit court decisions that ruled same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional in Oklahoma and Utah, creating a precedent that applies to Colorado as well, and as of today, with very little foreshadowing or fanfare, Charlie and I are married.

It’s a little anticlimactic compared to our bachelor blowout plans (I was gonna wear a tiara, dammit!) but we’re happy. I grew up in Colorado. I love Colorado. Today Colorado loves me back. I feel safer than I did yesterday. I’m so excited for the next time someone asks “Are you married?” and I get to respond “Yep!” instead of “Well, kind of, it’s a long story…”

But at the same time, just like every other time we’ve gotten a little more married, nothing has fundamentally changed. I have deadlines to meet. Charlie will be home from work in a few hours, and later we’ll go get ice cream and call it a second honeymoon. “How’s your day going?” says the intensely affable young woman who serves us our sundaes, whom we suspect is queer because she’s so much friendlier to us than most of her other customers.

“Pretty good,” I say. “We’re married now.”

“Oh, cool,” she says, then turns to the person behind me, who wants to sample the lemon sorbet. That feels like an appropriate response to me. We’ve been getting married in slow motion for two years. The excitement has mostly worn off. What’s left is the everyday happiness, the comfort, the familiar gestures and easy silences. It’s not a party anymore. It’s just where we live.

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