A Life More Ordinary: Blogging Against Proposition 8
The first ceremony, in legal terms, meant nothing. The second also meant nothing legally as soon as we got home to Seattle, but made us next of kin according to all authorities just a couple of hours' drive to the North.
We used to joke about it, or sort of joke, whenever we drove up to Vancouver to visit friends. "We're married now!" We'd cry, after crossing through Customs and handing over all our papers and the Mermaid Girl's birth certificate with both our names on it. And then, on the way home, as we passed the Peace Arch: "Not married any more! Hey, girlfriend!"
It wasn't that funny, though, to tell the truth.
One of RW's relatives, older than us, an established doctor with a great house in the San Francisco Bay area, flew to Niagra Falls with her partner, a lawyer, to get married at around the same time we did. They were so inspired by the ceremony that they up and moved to Canada a few months later. They live in the Okanagan now, in a house surrounded by vineyards.
Four years after our Vancouver wedding, we also moved to Canada. Now we're married all the time.
The prospect of legal marriage wasn't the only reason or even the main reason that we emigrated, but we've both been surprised at the depth of the difference we feel. It's a difference that makes it possible for me to shrug off the opinions of sweet old ladies on the street and even, to some extent, the prejudices of my child's teacher, because-- and here's the part I didn't think about much-- here, we are not different. We're not special, we're not the subject of battles over court decisions and legislative changes. We don't have to go to lawyers to make special arrangements and get special papers written up. We don't have to qualify anything when insurance companies and mortgage brokers and doctors ask for our marital status. We're married, period. The law is on our side.
Let me repeat that: the law is on our side.
This is a new concept for me, and not one I'd given much consideration before our move. After all, in Seattle we lived in a liberal bubble of tolerance and acceptance, taking for granted that under almost all circumstances-- except legal ones-- we'd be treated the same as our straight friends and neighbors. And just about always, we were.
But a bubble is just what it was. Underneath it all, recognition of our relationship was based on nothing but the good graces of our friends and relations. And while those good graces were pleasant and much appreciated, they still left us hugely vulnerable in the face of all the vicissitudes and disasters that could happen to any family. We were lucky that none of those happened to us. And we took for granted that dependence on luck and good grace, and the slight anxiety it brought with it.
Now, we don't have that any more. It's not just that we consider ourselves married, and our families consider us married, and our friends and neighbors and bosses and dentists consider us married: now, the Province of British Columbia and the Nation of Canada consider us married, too. And that has made all the difference.
Let me tell you about something that happened a couple of days before our wedding:
In Canada, you don't go to City Hall to register for a marriage license, you go to a big drugstore and wait in line with the people who are getting their auto insurance renewed, all the while shopper push past you in their search for Q-tips and deodorant and hairbrushes.
And so, a few days before our legal marriage ceremony on the beach in Vancouver, the Renaissance Woman and I found ourselves at a booth in London Drugs, with our passports in hand. The clerk who processed our paperwork was a bored-looking middle-aged guy whose first language wasn't English (not unusual in a city of immigrants). We filled our the required papers and passed them back to him, along with the payment, and he took them with barely a glance at us.
This was back in 2o03, and same-sex marriage hadn't been legal for very long in British Columbia, and we were anxious and wanted to make sure the papers were done right, so they wouldn't be invalidated in some unforseen way. So we pressed the point.
"We're both women," we explained carefully, ready for shock or disapproval or at least the need to fill out a whole other set of special forms. "We're getting married to each other."
"Yeah, yeah, okay," he nodded, filing and stamping and perforating and barely stifling a yawn. "Lots of people doing this. You sign here."
His shrugging matter-of-factness, the face of the machinery of bureaucracy chugging along on our behalf, was as sweet as wedding bells, as satisfying as the New York Times wedding announcement I'd wangled, as celebratory as the flowers MG tossed enthusiastically at the ceremony that weekend. It was the story we ended up telling over and over, in wonderment, after the ceremony. And it was one big reason that we packed up and moved four years later, and that we live here now.
I might live in Canada, but I'm still an American. I want everyone in my home country to have the chance at what I have now: an ordinary, boring, un-notable married life with the person I love. I'm seeing a chance of that, or at least a step towards it, in California. And like so many people, I'm e-mailing and reading and donating and watching and worrying about the prospects of Proposition 8: if it passes, that hope is so much further away.
And if not, if same-sex marriage stays legal in California, it's at least a bit closer.
August 30, 2003: The Mermaid Girl, held by Uncle Skaterboy, during our legal wedding ceremony, on the beach at English Bay.