“For as much as Richard and Danny have consented together in holy wedlock in the presence of Almighty God and these friends and family, and have pledged their faith in the love of each other, and have declared the same, by virtue of the power vested in me as a minister of the Gospel by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches and the state of Iowa, pronounce them married in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and
With these words, spoken in Davenport, Iowa on October 16th, 2010, another part of my identity was born—or at least legally recognized in the few states and countries that allow gay marriage, that is. Then on June 1st, 2011, Richard and I were officially “unionized” in the state of Illinois by virtue of our marriage in Iowa last year. In a nutshell, “unionized” means we’re “sort of married” now in the states that recognize civil unions. That is,
we have most of the same legal rights and responsibilities as heterosexual married couples in the state, and none of the federal benefits that come with marriage.
If I sound bitter, don’t misunderstand me. I’m thankful for the progress made on the gay marriage issue. At the same time, our marriage/civil union raised some interesting issues.
For instance, you can imagine how much fun it is now for us to fill out paperwork that requests our marital status, since most of these forms do not have a “unionized” option. I’m tempted to add a box and label it, “It Depends.”
See, in some places we’re married; in some places we’re unionized, and in most places we’re considered legal strangers. Then there is the whole question of what to call us individually: domestic partners? husbands? spouses, or perhaps “crazy”, as some of our friends have jokingly (I think) called us.
We’ve decided we like to be called “Richard and Danny.”
To be honest, however, Richard and I don’t dwell on these and other semantic issues too much; because even after 15 years, we’re too busy still learning how to navigate the joys and challenges of being a couple. Unfortunately, the marriage license didn’t come with a handbook on how to do this thing called “marriage.”
There is one question, however, we’ve discussed at length. Does marriage make a difference in our relationship? Well, no and yes. No, because I still “encourage” (read “nag”) Richard to follow our doctor’s orders about his diet and exercise, as well as his procrastination tendencies as much as I did before we were married. Richard
still “encourages” (read, “nags”) me to be more serious about my writing, about working too many hours, and not spending more time on my favorite hobby, cooking; which then usually leads us back to the whole diet and exercise discussion.
We still share the television remote—and we still roll our eyes at each other’s viewing selections. We still love the children and grandchildren we share, and debate what we think is best for them. Sometimes we even ask for the kids’ opinions. Lately we have been discussing how best to take care of my aging mother and stepfather. Oh, and we still love
each other even after saying, “I do.”
Marriage—and now, civil unions—didn’t change any of these things about our lives. When we were married, a light from heaven didn’t fill the church, and an angelic chorus didn’t break out in song —and fire and brimstone didn’t consume the church and wedding guests, either. We didn’t get married to set an example for the people of the church I pastor; and we didn’t get married so God would love us and recognize our relationship, either. The God of our understanding loves everyone and honors all loving relationships—whether governments recognize them or not.
At the same time, marriage—and now civil unions–did change something about our relationship. I just wish I could succinctly name that something. All I know is that “something”—whatever it is—feels good and peaceful.
Who knows? Maybe I should quit trying to analyze it, and simply enjoy the blessing that is
our marriage/civil union/domestic partnership/friendship.
Blessings on all your relationships!