When I was younger, I wasn’t the type of girl to dream about her someday wedding. I never imagined what my wedding dress would look like and couldn’t even necessarily imagine myself married to anyone, any time in the future. Then, I met Lindi. We were fast friends, and then more, and all of a sudden something clicked and we were looking at engagement rings on Christmas eve. All of a sudden, getting married was important.
When people in our midwestern state find out that I’m married to a woman, one of the most common questions I hear is ‘Where did you go to get married?’ Same-sex marriage isn’t legal where we live, but we didn’t go anywhere. Our marriage isn’t legal to our state or federal government and isn’t recognized by the companies we work for, and while that’s important, what matters the most is that in truth, we are 100% married.
Although it would be ideal if there was equal marriage in our home state or we could go to New York or Iowa or Massachusetts or one of the other states that recognizes same-sex marriage and then come home and have the license mean something (to anyone other than ourselves), it doesn’t work that way. So, then, why get married? We were already committed to one another; we were living together and had all sorts of plans for our future and knew without a doubt that the other was the one we wanted to be with for the rest of our lives. If it wasn’t going to add any of those handy legal rights afforded by legal marriage to our union, why get married?
I remember a conversation I had with my father before our wedding. He had been struggling with the idea of me getting married, although not, ironically, because we were both women– the ‘issue’ which had prompted several other family members to express their disapproval. Instead, he felt that I was getting married too young (a week to the day before my 22nd birthday.) During the conversation, we talked about why Lindi and I had made the choice to get married and what it meant that it wouldn’t be validated by a marriage certificate, and one of the things he said about legal marriage versus a union not recognized by law has really stuck in my memory ever since. He said that to him, when a person has committed themself to another and feel they are married, then it is so, whether or not the couple has a piece of paper saying its true.
That really resonated with me. After all, although the piece of paper means a whole lot, the vows mean more. Standing there, in front of our loved ones, and voicing my commitment to my wife was one of the most powerful and moving things I’ve ever done. In the end, I think that is the answer to the question ‘why wed?’ (at least for me): because marriage is a fundamentally community-based institution, and inviting the people who mean the most to us to hear us say out loud that we are in it for the long haul was important. Getting married didn’t change much about our relationship: we still are each others’ best friend, we still worry about money, we still want to have children together, we still dream about the kitchen and the backyard of the house we will own someday. However, marriage gives our partnership more weight in the world. It provided a sort of settling in, and it gives our relationship more gravity in the eyes of others. Marrying each other was just the next step that made perfect sense for us, legal or not.
For now, we are married, even without that piece of paper. Someday, when we can walk through the doors of our county courthouse and apply for a marriage license where we live, we’ll marry each other all over again.