Thursday, June 26, 2014

One Year

One year ago today, while my wife and I were on vacation in Norway, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

The moment we heard is still vivid in my mind.

Here is some of what I wrote at the time:

"I had been waiting for the ruling for what seemed like an eternity. I expected it to come at 10 am Washington time on June 26th, but I had not told my wife that this was when the ruling was expected because she had already chastised me for watching SCOTUSblog the few weeks prior for fear I would jinx it. I watched the clock anxiously that day and never told her I was watching the clock.

We got back into our hotel room around 4:20, or 10:20 DC time, and I immediately jumped on Facebook to see what had happened. She sat on the bed, and did the same thing, only she wasn't looking for the results. She thought we would hear the next day, because she thought the rulings were issued at the end of the day. As tears welled up in my eyes, I heard her say, "Wait, what? Did they? No..."

I said, "Honey, we are full citizens."

I didn't get up...I didn't want her to see me crying...and then she came over to me, tears streaming down her face. Neither of us had expected to cry. She had expected them to rule against us...and I had figured they would do what they did but was at the same time afraid to hope for it. I expected I would scream or dance or both.

But we both cried together. Together, apparently, with thousands of other LGBT people who felt finally accepted by their country. Who felt they were finally full citizens. Within minutes, I saw several proposals online, including one from one of my closest friends to her partner of more than 20 years. They had always considered themselves married, and she asked if her partner if she would now marry her legally. Of course she said yes. And I cried again."

Just reading the words I wrote a year ago (okay, a year and four days, because I couldn't post very well from my ipad), brings tears to my eyes again.

Since the decision, every single ruling in the country, some 22 or 24 I think, has gone in favor of marriage equality. Two more state bans were found to be unconstitutional just yesterday. There is now marriage equality in 19 states plus DC, and every single state has either had their ban declared unconstitutional or has a pending lawsuit. EVERY. STATE.

In that time, we have purchased a home in Maryland and established residency there. Next month, we will move into our home there for the first time. Virginia, which continues to not recognize our marriage, has lost thousands of dollars in income taxes just from us. And we know we are not alone. (It also meant filing a bazillion tax returns...okay, six I think, including fake federal ones listing us as single for our Virginia taxes and real joint federal hiring an accountant for the first time).

The changes in society have been dramatic. A majority of Americans now support marriage equality, including 50% in my beloved South. When getting insurance for a property we have in South Carolina, the agent asked if I was married, I said yes and gave her my wife's info, and she said she didn't think they would recognize our marriage...and that she was sorry because that was simply unfair!

Changes I made to our insurance and such at work and with our mortgages were simple. I had only to tell them we were married. I got not one single negative response. And my friends with foreign born spouses are having their lives changed even more dramatically. Several of my friends are newly-minted Americans because their marriages are finally recognized. I can't even describe how happy I am for them, because their struggles were always so much greater than ours.

There are still some changes that need to be made. Some agencies are still bound to recognize marriages based on places of residence rather than of ceremony, meaning that some couples living in non-equality states are still not getting social security and veterans benefits they are entitled to.

But at least now, we no longer have to worry about being allowed to make medical decisions for each other. We never have to worry about being able to claim the other's body for burial should the unthinkable happen. We can inherit each other's property and pensions without paying inheritance taxes. We are no longer legal strangers.

And when people ask now if we are married, the answer is a simple yes, without qualifications.

No comments: