Monday, November 4, 2013

Now that gay marriage is legal, mine doesn't feel real anymore.

On August 20, 2011, my partner and I were married.

It was a gorgeous event, held at the Peace Gardens in South Minneapolis. We had a group of about 50 friends and family in attendance, arranged in a circle enclosing us. We had a full ceremony, complete with readings, musical performance, handfasting, vows, and a family promise. We exchanged rings, had professional photography, and held a reception afterward where we got so drunk we missed our early honeymoon flight the next morning. We got married.

Sure, not everybody viewed it as a "real" marriage. Sometimes we told people we were married, and they would say, "Oh, where did you get married?"... the implication being that it must have been in another state where gay marriage is legal. "Right here in Minneapolis," we'd reply, and if a little more clarification was needed, we'd explain that though it wasn't "legal," it was most certainly "real." What is a marriage, if it's not about making a public declaration of our love and lifelong commitment to each other? Most of the time, people understood the logic, and that was that.

Gay marriage became legal in Minnesota last May, and the first gay marriages started to happen on August 1. It was an exciting moment in Minnesota, where we pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve on social issues. Minneapolis was recently deemed the "gayest city in America," after all. Newly legal gay marriage was made even more exciting by the Supreme Court's rulings against DOMA and Prop 8. Suddenly, shit was getting REAL in Minnesota, and the rest of the country seems to be, slowly, following in step.

Yay! Gay marriage is finally legal! Yes, there are more important issues, but as Macklemore said, "it's a damn good place to start." Suddenly, all my coupled gay friends who have been together for years were planning their long-overdue weddings, and my single gay friends were half-jokingly posting Facebook statuses about how they were looking for their future spouse. It was a part of the human narrative that was now part of our narrative too.

Except I wasn't ready to celebrate just yet. All this meant that I could be legally married now, too, but after discussing it with my husbutch, that didn't seem like the wisest choice. For one thing, when we married two years ago, we got all the legal paperwork secured that we could, to afford to us as many rights as possible that are automatically granted to straight married couples. We got living wills, health care directives, and powers of attorney. As far as the supposed tax benefit afforded to married couples, this turns out to be low or nonexistent when both parties earn roughly the same amount of money, which is the case for us.

Perhaps most impactful is the fact that if married, my husbutch would have to include my income when reporting her household income for her income-based repayment student loans. You see, her parents are highly conservative, evangelical Tea Party republichristians with lots of money, and didn't help out my husbutch with her post-secondary education at all (due to both her gayness and the fact that she refused to go to a Christian college). So, my husbutch put herself through both college and law school on loans alone, and as you can probably imagine, the total is now gargantuan. She's a solo practice attorney to nonprofits now, not a particularly lucrative area of law, and if she were to report my income as part of hers, her payments would soar to an amount that would put us in the poorhouse.

Just about the only benefits we can see to getting married now are related to the always-present possibility that one of us could die at any moment. If that happened, the other wouldn't have access to the deceased's social security, and would have to pay taxes on the value of our jointly owned house. Yes, those things would be cumbersome and unjust, but neither of us is planning to die soon.

So, it doesn't really make sense to get married, at least not yet. Some day I'm certain we will make it "official." In the meantime, I've had to struggle with suddenly feeling like my marriage isn't a "real" marriage anymore. Before gay marriage is legal, my marriage felt completely real. I wasn't expecting that to change, but our decision not to get legally married right now has made me insecure, like our relationship isn't as committed or loving or permanent as those of our married friends.

Of course I know this isn't true, and  I need only use the logic I've used in the past to "explain" my marriage to people. My husbutch and I have made public vows to each other, and more importantly, we are privately committed to keeping love present in our hearts and home. So when our (usually straight, gay-positive) friends ask us, "when are you getting married?" we can continue to respond with: "we are already married."


  1. Ahhh, I completely understand your feelings here.
    Being engaged has made me feel like for the first time in my life my relationship is worth something to the outside world. Like he was "just" a boyfriend before. No matter how committed he was still just a "just". Maybe it's just a fear that if things go bad, if you're not legally married, the other person can just walk away. But if that's all thats keeping you together then it isn't very real either.

    1. That is so true... something about that status gives so much weight to things... never mind the countless marriages lacking in love and basic kindness. I think you're right, that it's partly the fear of our relationships not seen as being permanent or mature.

  2. First, I love everything about you two as a couple from this post. It made me both tear up and smile. Second, I still think marriage/lifelong commitment/nonsexual lifemates/partnership/whatever you want to do should be how you want it. For the same reason marriage equality doesn't "cheapen" heterosexual marriages, nor should it lessen the "realness" of your marriage. Marriage equality simply adds another avenue for couples to commit to each other if they choose to do so or pick that particular path. That said, I empathize with how you feel. As an uber-feminist the tradition of marriage has long been an institution I've struggled with, but I have ultimately decided with my partner that we're going to head down that path for one reason or another. Keep on keeping on! And thank you for sharing your perspective, its such a great addition to the marriage equality narrative.

    1. Thanks, A... that made me smile. Congratulations on your own love!!