January 2nd is Mi.Vida and my anniversary.
Monday we had hoped to celebrate. Mi.Vida’s parents were going to take Isa in the morning and we were going to hang out. Unfortunately they fell sick on Sunday night and called to cancel. So Mi.Vida went to work and I stayed home and got some stuff done, hung out with Isa. We hoped to celebrate this Friday.
And we did. We lounged in bed all morning. Enjoyed some uninterrupted adult time. We were silly, we made each other laugh. We did, well, nothing until 10:30am and it was glorious. Finally we made it out of the house for lunch at one of our favorite spots and even had time to hit up Costco before our daughter was returned home. Who can argue with that?
While at lunch Mi.Vida told me the story of his friend and how her now fiance proposed to her. Evidently he had asked her parents, secretly, while they were all wrapping presents before Christmas. He presented her with the ring (and then dropped it, picked it up and represented it) on New Years Eve. It was a sweet story and I am happy to hear of their engagement. I also felt a little wistful about the lack of a similar story in my own life.
You see Mi.Vida never proposed to me. He never bought me a ring or got down on one knee. In fact, we never actually got married.
January 2nd is our anniversary, but it’s not our wedding anniversary. Mi.Vida and I never had a wedding. Our anniversary marks the day we became domestic partners in the city of San Francisco. It was really just a symbolic act – it doesn’t provide either of us with any rights as the parter of the other. If one of us were a employed by the city of San Francisco our domestic partnership would afford the other health benefits but as a teacher in another county and a non-profit attorney, our partnership is given meaning by us, and really nothing else.
We were going to get married. The type A planner in me probably never would have allowed for a surprise proposal but we did plan to tie the knot. We weren’t sure if we could afford a wedding but we definitely wanted to do something to mark the occasion. We hoped to get married before we started trying, to make our family building a legitimate undertaking.
In November of 2008 Mi.Vida and I celebrated the election of Barrak Obama as the president of the United States. Unfortunately, in California, something else passed that day – Proposition 8. Proposition 8 rewrote the California constitution to define marriage as an institution shared between a man and a woman. Prop 8 made it illegal for gay couples to get married in one of the more progressive states in the union.
When Prop 8 passed, Mi.Vida and I decided that we didn’t want to enter into what had become, in our minds, the discriminatory institution of marriage. At first we hoped to become domestic partners but evidently, in California, only same sex couples can become domestic partners. (Yep, you heard that right, in California only hetero couples can get married and only same sex couples can become domestic partners. If that is not a version of “separate but equal” I don’t know what is.)
Left with no options, we became domestic partners in the city of San Francisco. On January 2nd we had a small ceremony at the court house, attended by only our immediate families. Two weeks later we had a party at my parent’s house.
In the past 3 years Prop 8 has been tried several times in the California courts. It was eventually declared unconstitutional but the state is not issuing marriage certificates to same sex couples until the appeals process is over. The last I heard the courts had decided that the appelants had standing to bring their appeal. It could be years before the process is over.
So where does that leave us? We always told each other that if presented with a pressing legal reason to get married that we would do so. So far, no such reason has materialized. So we wait. Sometimes I want very much to get married; I feel like something is missing from our commitment to each other. Other times the whole thing feels unnecessary; I see no reason to “legitimatize” our relationship in the eyes of the state of California. Sometimes I’m not sure how I feel and I just wish the whole ordeal didn’t require so much soul searching, such an exhaustive consideration of so many distinctive yet intertwining beliefs, expectations and traditions. I definitely wish marriage here didn’t discriminate, that I could make my decision without factoring in that very upsetting detail.
Today I clicked on a link to a BlogHer article entitled Is Marriage Obsolete. Really, the article does no more than pose the question and honestly I haven’t had the time to read through the many, and lengthy, responses. Of course the question strikes my interest and really the only answer that should matter to me is my own. The truth is I don’t know. Having never been married I can’t say what the institution would add to our union, at least not in a personal or intimate way. Obviously marriage does provide people with legal protections and makes it harder for two people to walk away form their commitment to each other. Of course, common progeny makes it even harder for two people to part ways and we already have ourselves some of that.
The reality is I presently consider myself to be married. We wear rings that we exchanged during our ceremony. I call Mi.Vida my husband, as well as my partner. I tell my students that I’m married, so as to avoid any difficult conversations or parental judgement. I feel as if I’ve committed myself as fully to Mi.Vida now as I would if we were married. And yet sometimes I wonder if that is really the case. I don’t know if marriage would strengthen our love for each other in any tangible way, or if we’ve already made that commitment fully to ourselves in our hearts, where it matters most.
What are you thoughts on marriage? Do you feel it’s becoming obsolete? What does it mean for you to be married? Do you think you could achieve that without the actual certificate? Is marriage more about the legal protections, the personal commitment or a complicated combination of both?