I haven’t posted in awhile. Transitions are funny things; it is hard to maintain a focus when surrounded by boxes and you aren’t quite sure of the time zone. We moved from Utah to California on July 1. The furniture came several days later, and then on the 12th, we left for a long planned vacation to Europe. Bad timing in some ways, but the trip was paid for before I decided to leave the church in Ogden at the end of June.
The house is coming together, but I don’t have my home office really set up yet and I don’t start at my new church until August 15th.
Changes. New things. Then again, it is also coming home, back to the house where we lived for 25 years and raised our kids. Some of the old neighbors are still here as are some of our favorite restaurants. Prices are much higher than Utah, for everything. California isn’t perfect, but it is so worth it to live somewhere my marriage is recognized without question, even by random people standing in line at the deli counter. (You can’t get Molinari Salami in Utah, and my comment about that started a whole fun conversation about why I had lived there and why I left.)
More poetry will come again I know, but for now, I just wanted to explain my rather long absence.
We never thought marriage was important for us. Yeah, sure, we knew there were some financial benefits. OK, a LOT of financial benefits! (Some of them are listed here) But still, as far as our relationship went, we did not think marriage would make a difference to us. We’d been together for 38 years after all. We had kids together, several foster children as well as our own three biological kids. We were out and open. We had friends and our Unitarian Universalist religious community that treated us as a family. We were committed to spending the rest of our lives together. Who needed marriage?
As a minister, I have officiated at a lot of weddings. They can be truly wonderful ceremonies and it is an honor to bear witness to a couple’s love for each other. It is particular moving to me to perform a marriage for a couple that I know, when one or both are friends or members of my congregation. It is also a privilege to, on behalf of the state, declare them legally married. It has always bothered me that I could not perform a legal marriage for every couple whose wedding I performed.
Still, I didn’t really get what a big deal marriage is. I didn’t know what I was missing. It isn’t just the ceremony and the party. We could have done that at any time. All UU ministers perform same gender weddings and have done so for decades. I have a lot of minister friends. One of them did our legal marriage last month in California. I put up a facebook post asking for someone to do the honors and no less than 5 friends volunteered to help within 4 hours of the posting. We were married. We are married. We’re having a bigger religious wedding ceremony and reception later, but we are already married. The legal status matters. The financial advantages are just that, financial advantages. We got a few of those in California back in 1993 when we registered as domestic partners.
So what is the big deal about marriage? What have I learned that I didn’t know before?
I don’t have all the answers to those questions yet. I do know that a legal civil marriage is every bit as important as the religious ceremony. A legal civil marriage is recognized by everyone. A religious ceremony provides recognition by your faith community. If you are legally married, everybody has to recognize the relationship, not just the people that happen to approve of it. I think we all know a few married couples that have lousy relationships, ones we don’t really approve of in any way. It doesn’t matter if they were married in a church or temple or by a county clerk or by someone with a mail order ordination. We still recognize them as married, even if we might wish they weren’t.
That is what happened when we signed the marriage license and turned it into the county clerk to be recorded. Everywhere we went in California, our marriage was recognized. It was an incredible feeling, a powerful feeling. We can now visit Washington DC, Massachusetts, and a dozen other states and a score of countries and no one, not even the grossest bigot, can say our marriage is not valid. Ok, they can say it, but it wouldn’t be true.
Here in Utah, however, our marital status is in question. Things are not clear. It will most likely take court cases before our marriage is legally valid here. In a state where publishers refuse to print a bio for an author in a same gender relationship (see article) changing enough hearts and minds will likely be a long, slow, and tedious process.
It is not OK, it is hurtful and wrong, but that is the way it is right now. It will be different someday. Progress will continue. In the meantime, we’ll kept working on those hearts and minds. We are still married, even in Utah.
My long time partner and I were legally married in California on July 12, 2013. How weird it is to be in Utah now. How weird the trip home felt.
In California, we went shopping for wedding rings for the ceremony we are planning in January. Such a joy it was. Yes, the matching rings are for us. Smiles all around mostly, although one jeweler made no comment. Maybe that is the way it is supposed to be. Just another couple getting married. Normal, everyday, commonplace, so why comment? Still, I think we made him a bit uncomfortable. No matter, plenty of others wanted our business. We went out to dinner with friends who announce our new status to other friends they see. We tell almost everyone we meet. It feels good. It feels real.
Then we crossed the border into Oregon, “Oh, are we still married here?” Well no, not yet at least, but they are at least working on it. Federal recognition only in that state. We “honeymooned” in Oregon but it wasn’t as easy as California had been. We did not share our news with any strangers there.
Then the honeymoon and our vacation was over and we entered Idaho. It felt downright creepy being there knowing that most people there would not welcome us as we are. We have been to Idaho many times, but this time felt different. Married we were finally, but it felt like we were strangers visiting a foreign land.
Utah felt a little better. It has been our home for six years. There are people we love here, that are happy for us. I serve a fabulous Unitarian Universalist church here. My congregants were excited to learn we had gotten married. Federal laws should still apply here, despite our legislature’s crazy impulses to secede from all the one’s they don’t like. But it does feel odd to be married here and also not. When asked if I am married I will say yes now, to doctors, dentists, anyone. I will say yes because it is true, even if Utah says it is not. But it does feel strange. I have not been in the closet here at all. But somehow, being told that “domestic partner” is not a relationship category here, wasn’t quite so offensive, and at least I was used to it. Now I will be out as a married woman. I changed my middle name when we signed the marriage license and now I will need to change all of my federal records. I’ll try the Social Security office first, and hope they have gotten the word, even here in Utah. We will see how that goes. I will let you know.