une 18th was the first wedding anniversary of my 17-year marriage. If you find that confusing, then either you're not gay, or you haven't been in a relationship for very long. My partner, Melynda, and I were one of those 18,000 samesex couples who were married in California last year during that very brief window of opportunity between the State Supreme Court's May 15th decision to overturn the ban on gay marriage and the November 4th passage of Proposition 8, which again revoked our right to wed. Anniversaries can get confusing for gay folk. What to celebrate and when? Melynda and I used to celebrate June 5th because that's when we officially became a couple way back in 1992. We celebrated the traditional way by duly forgetting about it each year and/or having a pointless argument over nothing much. We were very young and very poor. We couldn't afford fine bottles of champagne, no one had invented Netflix yet, and arguments were both free and thrilling. No one can slam a door like a 25-year-old lesbian. It's an art form, it really is. Later, we had September 14th, 1996 to remember. That's when we had a church wedding with 150 guests and engraved invitations. It was a religious statement; it was a political statement; it was a way to declare to our friends, our relatives, and our co-workers that our marriage was a real marriage. Our relationship not only deserved to be solemnized by a minister, it also deserved to be registered at The Bon Marché. We were bold. We used local shops in Moscow, Idaho. We walked in, we placed our wedding orders, and we made our plans without apology or explanation. No one batted an eyelash, not at the engravers where we ordered our invitations, not at the department store where I rented my tuxedo. Only one relative refused to attend the
by Joan Opyr
ceremony, but as he was an idiot uncle who'd last attended a family wedding wearing a pair of Junior Sample overalls and smelling like a three-day old dead elk, we were more relieved than sorrowed. (To be fair, he later sent us a long letter of apology. It was ten years later, but who's counting?) For now, we have settled on June 18th and our California wedding. Why? I don't know. Perhaps because it's legal. Although the California Supreme Court recently upheld Proposition 8, the Justices also upheld the legality of those 18,000 marriages, including mine. In a frame on our wall is our California wedding license with the judge's signature on it and that of our witness, a young security guard who was so pleasantly blasé about the whole thing that we felt normal. In fact, we felt boring. It was as if gay marriages happened every day and everywhere. The security guard didn't see what all the fuss was about she was only 19, and she thought gay marriage was already legal nationwide. I asked her if she'd ever heard of a place called Alabama, but she just looked at me a Los Angeleno, born and bred. We were married in the Beverly Hills Courthouse, a beautiful and imposing structure. They were ready for a big influx of gay couples, with deputy commissioners on the spot to marry the excess, but we arrived during a lull. We waited in line for our licenses with couples both gay and straight. Perhaps because it was Beverly Hills, everyone was universally happy for us the people in line, the clerks behind the windows, the guy I met on
the elevator who was being arraigned for grand larceny. He and I wished one another luck and went on our respective ways. We were married in a quick but weighty civil ceremony. The courthouse, the judge, the security guard when we left there, we felt it. We laughed a great deal, but that was not a light moment. When something is legal, you feel it. It's a bit like signing your will, or putting your name on mortgage documents. Legal marriage is a huge commitment. It's something we've tried as gay and lesbian people to construct with one another, but without the imprimatur of the state, we've done this knowing full well that homophobic relatives or some perfect stranger in a hospital emergency room could tear our world apart. June 18th, 2008. The other dates will be memories. This will be our anniversary. And I expect much the same sort of shift is happening right now in Iowa, Connecticut, Maine, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Q
Joan Opyr is a gigantic crank. Her life is frequently weird, and she enjoys writing and talking about that. She's a transplanted Southerner who dreams of golden beaches, sweet iced tea, and sunny skies. She believes that Eva Cassidy should be beatified. Oh, and she's also an award-winning novelist.
www.qviewnorthwest.com | Q View Northwest - Spokane Edition | July 2009 |