I’m not sure it can be called a protest. Technically, I think it was a rally. Those of you who know me or have read Teaching the Cat to Sit know that I’ve never marched or picketed or done much of anything to support gay rights–prior to writing my memoir–unless you count watching Ellen. If you haven’t been following what’s been going on in our little Boulder County community, I’ll catch you up. Hillary Hall, our County Clerk and Recorder, has been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Colorado 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down Utah’s gay marriage ban. Hall was told to stop by the Attorney General, John Suthers, and when she didn’t, he sued her. As I type this a 3-hour hearing is taking place at the Boulder County Courthouse. Suthers is asking for a restraining order and injunction to prevent Hall from issuing any more licenses AND to invalidate the 100 or so she’s already granted.
I barely made it to the rally. I didn’t have a sign. I had to drop off our son at camp. My partner of sixteen years had a routine mammogram. I stayed for fifteen or twenty minutes, yelled a few chants, and pumped my fist a couple of times. It felt good to be there, but I’d still rather fight my battles with words on paper, and yet, this has never felt like a battle or war to me. Why? Because no one has or can or will stop me from loving and committing for a lifetime to my partner and our family. Not a piece of paper or church, and certainly not the disapproval or hate of others. That said, I realize why these rights are important. I deserve my partner’s social security benefits, and they could help me raise our son should something happen to her. She deserves to have her life partner visit her in the hospital if she’s unconscious or in pain–without a legal marriage, that’s left to the discretion of doctors and nurses. And all that is important, but for me: I just want to get married because I want to celebrate our love and commitment the same way other people do, and to be honest, I feel a little cheated.
The romance factor is gone, stripped away by court proceedings and time–decades of it. I pictured myself falling in love in my twenties or early thirties…wondering about the proposal…how it would happen and where…the ring…the wedding plans…the walk down the aisle…the first dance…a whole life ahead as a couple getting to know each other as a married couple…buying a house together…having kids…navigating and planning the sweaty, nervous path together as newlyweds.
My partner is over 50, and I’m almost there. Her father is gone, and can’t walk her down the aisle. Our son is eight. While our friends will be happy when we announce that we are getting married, they won’t be surprised or overjoyed. It’s expected. This isn’t the beginning of our life together, it’s the middle–and that takes some of the idealized wonderment out of it. I committed my life to her sixteen years ago, and recommitted a dozen times, through sickness, health, mortgages, gutter-cleaning, career changes, and adopting our son. Our marriage, when it happens, will be sweet and solidifying…the icing on the wedding cake of the years we’ve been together, the years we’ve held fast to one another in a way no paper or institution could ever have bound us. And while that might be the greater lesson here, it can’t reverse the clock.
I can’t go back to my youth. But for the next generation of same-sex couples, there will be clammy palms and parents being asked for a daughter’s hand in marriage, by another daughter–and the romance of a proposal on a moonlit night when a woman is still young enough to get down on one knee and back up again. And I think that is why I went to the rally today, and why I’d choose to go again. Because one day, when we’re past all the legal mumbo jumbo and court documents and politics, there will just be one thing: LOVE, and the wonderment and romance and power of that word between two people, unsullied by anything else.