Marriage Project

Jill is lately married to a former radical-cheerleading, performance artist, addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet. It was a Day-of-the-Dead affair.

This is a series of journal like posts made between xxxx and xxxx where I explored the feelings around the marriage equality act and …

Marriage Project, Day 1

February 9, 2012
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So, I got my wife to kick off the Marriage Project:

Women in White

I am dreading the next few months because my State has passed a marriage equality bill through the House and Senate and, sometime next week amid much fanfare, the Governor will sign it. She’s already promised.

And it’s not that my jaded little heart can’t go all goosepimply over the prospect of all those his & his & hers & hers weddings. I positively weep whenever another state opens up their city halls and starts tying knots. Always first is some incredibly aged couple who have been waiting, waiting, waiting for decades to be told that their love is registered. Like an earthquake, on some cosmic scale.

And it is not because I won’t benefit directly from this sudden equality. I have already warned my co-workers that on the very first day that licenses are available I will be absent from my post and camped out in front of City Hall with my 58 dollars, picture i.d. and a video camera to document my giddy bridal excitement.

I am so ready to make it legal with the woman I call my Unlawfully Wedded. The fact that we already had a wedding in August just makes me feel superlucky. I could be twice-wed in a year. And to the same person!

I am just bracing for the hate. See, between the Gubernatorial signing gala and the nuptial extravaganza there will be a Referendum Drive. Holy troops of volunteers with God in their hearts and pocketsfull of ball point pens and talking points will descend upon us like plagues of locusts. Or toads. And they will assault us with their hate.

The work I do is rough. It tests the limits of what I can see and hear without giving up entirely on the human race. But I do manage to get up every morning and march off whistling. Because outside of my job, I live in a bubble where everyone I discuss and love and work with and dine with – yes, even the Republicans and yes, most lovely of which are the Christians – all of the people I see on the regular support my family. And this is by design. I am not built to fight all day in the public arena and then come home and scrap with the people who profess to love me. I like my bubble. I guard it fiercely.

But when I hear of this referendum fight, I keep picturing my local grocery store and how I will be walking the gauntlet week after week to retrieve my yogurt and school-lunch-friendly juice boxes. You know, the ones hippy enough not to induce instant diabetes, but not so hippy that the 7 year-old is too embarrassed to drink them in public. And the soy milk. (I am a lesbian.)

I will have to pass some dickhead with a clipboard, asking people to sign a petition to remove my marriage right from me. Some dickhead who actually believes he can accomplish that feat. I’d like to see him try.

“The state can’t give you freedom, and the state can’t take it away. You’re
born with it, like your eyes, like your ears. Freedom is something you
assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it from you. The degree to
which you resist is the degree to which you are free…” Utah Phillips

There has been discussion, amongst my friends, on how to handle the solicitations of dickheads. My friend J.J. says he will take the petition and carefully print FUCK YOU in large letters across all the unsigned boxes. I suggested we all sign as “Rick Santorum” with a fake address – possibly one’s own local Planned Parenthood. There are many creative solutions.

But what I picture myself doing, what I see as really true, is standing at the entrance of the store right next to the dickhead. In my wedding dress. And just asking people. Please. Don’t sign this. Please?

Mary Malone
Spokane, WA

read more at her blog, Red Zorah

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Marriage Project, Day 2

February 10, 2012
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Thinking about what I’d write for the Marriage Project, I had this terrible urge to argue. And then it drained away, and I got this instead:

I watched a barn raising when I was a kid, and envied all of them. Why wouldn’t you help your neighbors? You’ll need them, in your turn, and whatever you’re building will go more quickly if you have help. Strangers came to our wedding. Old friends. Chosen family. My coworkers. Christians and pagans. Jews and atheists. Buddhists. The various undecided. My son and step-son. My mother-in-law. And a month later my father told me I’d had a party, not a wedding, as though he knew anything about it. He hadn’t come to the barn raising. He didn’t want to celebrate with us. That’s a sad and heavy thing. Not, I’m sorry to say, as unusual as it should be.

It’s just love, man. What are you so afraid of?

I want your god to love you. To treat you with tenderness. I want your family to do the same. I want you to be built up rather than torn down. I wish that for you. What do you wish for me? Our joy is mightier when we share it with one another. You know this is true. You’ve felt it, the glow of it, against your face, inside your chest. Love one another. Raise a barn with your neighbors. Celebrate love because it matters. In the end we’ll be judged by it. We’ll be judged by our love.

Jill Malone
Spokane, WA

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Marriage Project, Day 3

February 11, 2012
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I woke this morning thinking about this contributor’s story. I write at length about fluidity and grief and love and when I asked for stories I had no idea what I would get — if people’s stories would sound similar. No one’s does. I woke this morning thinking that marriage is like god, we assume everyone pictures the same thing when they say the words, but they don’t. Meet my guest for today’s Marriage Project:

Very soon here, us Washington girls who like girls (and those boys who like boys) will get to marry. I can’t wait to celebrate that. I can’t wait for a day of kissing and high-fives and smiles and happy tears and giddy, breathless hugging. I can’t wait for my friends and neighbors to have the right to marry their beloved. I can’t wait for my girl friends to say “Oh yes, meet my wife” and have it be a state-sanctioned statement. I can’t wait for my boy friends to get to have husbands and have the term seem so real.

I can’t wait.

But that day, a small part of me will sit, a quiet spot in the gaiety (oh, puns), a grey spot in the color. A small part of me will be in mourning. My mourning will be purely selfish, but then again, I think all mourning is. I do not have this anymore, and that makes me sad. You can drown in that kind of thinking.

Ten years ago, I loved a girl. Nine years ago, we started dating. Eight years ago, I proposed. Seven years ago, we moved in together. Six years ago, we had a commitment ceremony, despite it not being recognized by anyone but our friends and family. Five years ago, our state allowed domestic partnerships; and four years ago, we registered for ours. Three years ago, we got a dog together.

Two years ago, she left me. One year ago, she met someone else.

I’m not mourning the relationship anymore, or at least, I don’t think I am. I moved on, too, and married the greatest man I’ve ever met. But I do mourn that she and I never had that and never will have that. I feel cheated. I was with a woman for seven years, effectively married, but not legally so. And I wanted that legality, damn it. We came so close to having our turn at City Hall and telling the world “Yes, this is real,” and we fell short and that makes me sad.

So I’ll need a moment to myself, on that glorious day. There’ll be a point during the party where I’ll close my eyes and slowly count backward from ten. And with each number, I’ll get closer to the surface. I’ll let the dead rest. I’ll get over myself. I’ll rejoice for my friends and revel in equality and thank the cosmos that I found a person I love with a whole heart and who loves me back and not give a damn about our genders. I’ll thank any and all gods that he and I and she and her and he and him can love openly, and that the state supports that.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Breathe.

Devon Kelley
Spokane, WA

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Marriage Project, Day 4

February 12, 2012
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It does seem, too often, that we all have collective amnesia. Meet my guest for today’s Marriage Project:

As an atheist, I don’t consider my marriage to be a covenant with God. I feel marriage is a vital social institution. The right to create a family should be universal. It is our kin, whether consanguinal, affinal, or fictive, that provide us with the community our species craves and needs to survive. The legal recognition we are afforded means that I have a partner who can speak for me when I cannot, who can make decisions for me when I am impaired, and I can feel safe that my proxy is the person who knows me the best, loves me best, wants the best for me. Our children will belong to us both, legally. Should something happen to one of us, the child(ren) would not be removed from the parent they still have. We have a recognized status in our culture as a married couple, which affords us respect in ways that couples without this legal distinction are unfortunately denied. The fact that all these social, financial, and legal privileges are handed to us because we have the “correct” genitalia in the “correct” combination is obscenely offensive.

It is so incredibly difficult in this life to find someone you truly love, who truly loves you, and be able to actually make it work, that if you are lucky enough to find that, I honestly don’t think that anyone in this world or any other should have the power to tell you that you can’t have it. My partner’s first marriage would have been against the law once upon a time, and many of the same arguments against interracial marriage are being brought up again, as if we have collective amnesia.

Making the decision to commit your life to the person you love should not be devalued because of the parts of the people involved. We are all more than the sum of our parts. A government that denies the rights of its citizens based on such arbitrary distinctions has no right to call itself a democracy. I support marriage equality because it is absolutely unthinkable to me that the institution of marriage should be limited to the cis population. Humanity is a wildly, wonderfully diverse spectrum, and the ways in which we express love and family and commitment to one another are the most beautiful things about us, in my opinion. I can think of nothing more joyous than being able to witness all of my friends and family being given the same ability to create family, feeling that satisfaction and sense of oneness that comes with recognizing the basic human-ness of this act. I feel this warmth of community, of recognizing the same instinctual drive for family and love in others that I feel in my bones, at every wedding I attend. Whether or not it is legally recognized.

Chae Hoban
Spokane, WA

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Marriage Project, Day 5

February 13, 2012
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The thing about privilege is that no one earns it. When I married a boy, the deference and seriousness everyone suddenly gave our relationship was confusing and phony. In a curious way, marriage is currently getting a facelift. The pursuit of equality means that people have to examine what they mean by the word ‘marriage’ and why marriage is worth fighting for. Meet my guest for today’s Marriage Project:

When I was a “straight” woman in a marriage that lasted 16 years, I was raised that you stick it out no matter what, be there for the kids, look over the shortcomings, forgive, even if it is an unhealthy relationship. I stayed and settled because I thought that was what you did.

My world flipped completely upside down 4 years ago. I met the love of my life, my soulmate, my heartbeat. It just happened to be she was a woman. I realized, when we began, that all the questions I ever had, all the weirdness I felt my whole life was crystal clear and I was meant to go through everything I had been through to get to this exact moment to be who I was meant to be. This woman completed me.

I asked her to marry me and I meant it. We pledged our love for each other and hoped one day we would be able to legally marry.

May 9, 2008 we received our domestic partnership, one year to the day later we pledged our love in a ceremony in front of our family and friends. Somehow though it just wasn’t perfect because even though we don’t need a piece of paper to say we are married I realized I needed that, just to say yes we are recognized, we are no different with our marriage than the straight couple next door.

Another thing that goes along with “marriage” is legal children. I took so many things for granted in my old life, like conceiving a child and automatically it was ours. Not in an alternative life. We conceived a child (twins) together. I was no less a parent than my partner was, but being the non-birth mother, I had so many things to go through before I legally could call our children mine too.

I guess what being married means to me is that we, my wife and I are recognized in the eyes of the law, our marriage is equal to the next person’s. We are looked at no differently and I can call her my Wife. We have every right allowed to us. That our marriage Is good enough and not a sham or a joke — that it’s not a consolation prize.

I love my wife. I love our children. I just want what is right, no more no less. Because when you find the one you were destined to be with you want everyone to see the happiness and love.

Lisa Wilson Wife to Maycie
Spokane, WA

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Marriage Project, Day 6

February 14, 2012
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I have no idea why this post makes me think of the Princess Bride, but every time I read it, I think, Marriage, marriage, marriage. Marriage is what brings us to-gever today. Meet my guest for today’s Marriage Project:

A couple of years ago, I was asked if I supported gay marriage. I replied with a casual ‘no’ before I realized that I would have to explain my position to not overly shock and offend my friends. I think that our government should get out of the ‘marriage’ business altogether. There are rights and privileges that the government doles out to those that get ‘married’ under the eyes of the law. These have nothing to do with the religious sacrament of marriage, and should be recognized as a separate ceremony. These rights and privileges should not be denied to any consenting adults who seek them and are prepared to shoulder the responsibility that comes with these rights and privileges. Allow me to illustrate:

My marriage was a shining example of the doomed heterosexual ‘marriage’. At 6 months pregnant, I knew that I would not be returning to work with the birth of the child, and health care was a priority. Along with this came joint ownership of goods and survivor benefits. Seeing as I do not adhere to any particular religion, when I married it was a simple trip to the courthouse. No chapel, no sacraments, just sign the legally binding agreement and pay the fee. There was no celebration, there was no community to help share our joy. Jump forward ten years, and my husband passes away about one week before we file divorce papers. As I was still considered his spouse, everything went easy-peasy from a legal perspective.

So now I’m in a relationship where the words ‘The trip to the courthouse is just a formality’ come out of my mouth on a regular basis in regards to a multitude of situations, such as combining the DVD collections, having the kids call my partner’s parents Grandma & Grandpa, picking out the perfect dining room table, creating a home and a life together that is so much better than I ever thought I could have. And yet the specter of ‘marriage’ hangs over all of it. My children have, for the first time in a long time, two functioning caring parents. If anything were to happen to me, my partner would not automatically continue under the law as their parent.  The house is in my name alone, and even if it wasn’t it could still be contested. If I am in the hospital, my next of kin could deny visitation. So I think about marriage. A lot. And I wish that something was in place to just be able to say that this is the person I want to spend my life with, and I want that choice to be recognized even if someone else may not agree with it, and I want our rights to be protected.

I think that when we set up these laws surrounding consenting adults and how they choose to intertwine their lives, we got lazy and decided to co-opt the already existing religious ‘marriage’. I actually have a great deal of respect for the various religions that we have in this country, and I really don’t want to step on their toes. If gay marriage goes against your god, then don’t perform gay marriages in your church. I don’t have a problem with that. But when you are talking about the equitable treatment of the citizens of our country, I firmly believe that you have to take sex and race and preference, and all that stuff out of the picture, and look at a set of rights and responsibilities that you are setting forth for consenting adults to protect their future. So, no, I am not in favor of gay marriage; I’m not even in favor of heterosexual marriage. But what I am most passionately in favor of is the equitable treatment of all consenting adults who have chosen to commit their lives to each other.

Sacha Fredericks
Spokane, WA

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Marriage Project, Day 7

February 15, 2012
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The footnote is from her wife. And it’s perfect. Meet my guest for today’s Marriage Project:

My wedding story

I have always been accustomed to the idea of being a bride. I was,
after all, brought up in Utah. It was routine growing up there to be
focused on securing a husband. Preferably early. I am a good girl so I
married by 21.

I remember the wedding with discomfort. I couldn’t stop laughing. Not
in that “Oh this is the happiest day of my life!” way. Think more like
that uncomfortable tickle at the back of your throat when you are in a
quiet space. Knowing you should be still, but being unable. Imagine
giving in to the giggle, even as everyone turns to stare and eyebrows
raise. That was my first wedding.

My groom digging his hand into mine in an effort to shut me up. A
routine in our marriage. Shut me up, calm me down, tame me. Needless
to say, ours was not a happy union.

I constantly felt I was walking about with two left shoes. To feel
more at ease with myself, I went searching for who I was. This is a
long story but imagine much soul searching and wandering about lost
for – oh, about 5 years or so.

I woke up to myself while performing in the Vagina Monologues. There
is a little ensemble piece called “What Would Your Vagina Say?”
Apparently mine had been wanting to say “Psst … you are a lesbian.

Less than a month from that moment under the lights at The Met theater
I met her.

Oh man, I can’t even begin to describe her or my instant sure
knowledge of our rightness together, but falling in love with Cassie
was the easiest, most perfect plan I had ever been party to.

We merged families and destinies quickly. I flung headlong into love.

It wasn’t all pretty. My family was shocked. There was a little talk
that I was not fit to parent my two children (then 18 months and 4
years). It was rough, but somehow in that storm of family
disappointment and attitude adjustment, I felt calm.

After 26 years of always feeling backassward and wrong, with Cassie I
felt perfectly normal. I have always joked with her that she is my
sleeping pill. With her I fall asleep soundly and promptly, safe.
Before her I had never felt this way, it is how I know we have
something special. Something to celebrate.

After 10 years together and  millions of giggles, 10,000 tears,
hundreds of struggles both minor and major and that ever-glowy, gooey
love, we now stand on the precipice of a day when our love might
finally become state sanctioned.

I am delighted, planning a ridiculous, ginormous over-the-top wedding.
I want to plan every detail, because I care. Because this will be my
first real marriage. Because we have earned it, my bride and I. We
have withstood so much disdain and homophobia to reach this place. And
we will now party in the most epic way. We will not make our love
small to keep society comfortable any longer. The happy brides are
coming and the grooms, too. Be ready with open arms and good dancing

Anne Dietz-LaVoie
Portland, OR

(I love you, baby-love! This story brings me tears of joy. I really do
love you! Yep, it’s me; I read it! – Cassie)

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Marriage Project, Day 8

February 16, 2012
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My pen pal is an American in Denmark. She sent this story hours after Mary and I argued about Dan Savage’s decades-old assertion that marriage might be the beginning of the end of gay culture. Now I have even more to think about. Meet my guest for today’s Marriage Project:

To be perfectly honest, I have never wanted to get married. But I’ll tell you that I have also felt a little guilty about that. Because, in just the way that heterosexual couples are “privileged,” my partner and I have been, too.

Two and a half years ago, we moved to Denmark, perhaps the most tolerant country in the world. While they’ve been a little slow getting around to full marriage rights (legislation that will pass this year), Denmark was the first to recognize same-sex civil unions. In 1989. Government-sanctioned gay relationships in Denmark are as old as the average nightclub patron. And in most ways, far more normal.

When we first moved here, people back home would ask what the gay community was like. Surely it was thriving and exciting! It’s been hard explaining to my gay friends – who consider Copenhagen in much the same way that pot smokers think of Amsterdam – that there really isn’t one. There’s a pride parade and the GLBT Film Festival, but everyone goes to these. Everyone. Grandmothers and small children go, and politicians and police officers, military in uniform – not to protest or keep the peace, but just for something fun to do on a summer afternoon.

The Danes are beyond tolerant. Their value system is based on opportunity and equality. Same-sex couples can adopt easily, and the government partially subsidizes fertility treatments and IVF – lesbian or otherwise. In fact, my visa and work permit actually hinge on my girlfriend’s, under what’s known as “Family Reunification.” On all of our paperwork, I get to check the box that says “Cohabitating Partner.” Not married, no. But still my love is valid. My love has an equal weight.

At the end of this summer, our privilege ends. We will be coming home – to our real home. To family, and the familiar, all of the million things we love and have missed. And if we were to have married, Florida would not recognize it.

While living abroad, I have occasionally found myself being an apologist. I’ve tried to explain why my country can’t care for its sick or poor, or its children – not in the way that Scandinavia can. But this isn’t even that complicated. It’s not a matter of tax laws or logistics; this is simple bigotry.

So coming home means being relegated to a place I haven’t thought about in a while. In a state that only very recently lifted a ban on gay adoption. (Not for gay couples, mind you. Gay people, period.) Our powers value neither equality nor opportunity, and I feel unsafe again. Like I have something very basic and tender to hide.

The fact is, I may not want to be married, but it’s devastating to lose the right.

Shelly Wilson
Copenhagen, Denmark

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Marriage Project, Day 9

February 17, 2012
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One of my favorite things about this project is hearing how much people want to celebrate joy. We want to. It’s deep in us, the press toward joy. This post is filled with love. You can feel it as you read. She’s like this in real life, too. Meet my guest for today’s Marriage Project:

Marriage … isn’t important to me. The idea of marriage, the equality of it, and access to it, however, is.

I, personally, believe in no forever, no unconditional love, no fairytale. I believe that there is a higher chance of obligation becoming the reason my marriage would continue, not unyielding affection. To me, and again I say, TO ME, a piece of paper with a state-sanctioned promise is completely meaningless.

However, I also believe denying anyone their own piece of paper with a state-sanctioned promise and all the rights and perks that come along with it is abhorrent.

Marriage is beautiful, inspiring, and necessary. I truly believe that. I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the most awe-inspiring, thought-provoking wedding I have ever seen last year. There was no church, no priest, no tux, no marriage license, and no groom. There was, however, the most awesome; and I mean awesome to its most literal definition; out pouring of love throughout the entirety of the night. Not just from the brides, mind you, but from the whole group that came to support them in their decision.

During the service, one of the women in the marriage party said something to the extent of:

Marriage is a promise not only to and for each other, but also to and from the couple’s community. That the couple would share their love and joy and hardships with their chosen community and not hide it from the world, but also that their community promised to celebrate with as well as support the couple.

It was everything I had ever believed from the possibility of marriage. To my life, no, marriage is not important, but I do believe that in and of itself sums up the entire debate of marriage equality. I don’t need or want a marriage, so I chose not to get married.

I would never deny that right to any couple based on something as insignificant as what genitals they happen to possess. It is my commitment in life to celebrate joy wherever it springs up, so this hedonist heart will be at every wedding her community has to offer and can do nothing but smile blissfully at the idea of all the women and men who can finally marry whomever they choose.

Amora Lenzi
Spokane, WA

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Marriage Project, Day 10

February 18, 2012
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I love the idea of boys planning their weddings. Much is made of equality being the destruction of marriage. In fact, it’s a reinvigoration of a concept straight people are so tired of they’ve memorialized the reluctant groom in every medium (those cake toppers with the bride dragging the groom to the altar are just embarrassing). Meet my guest for today’s Marriage Project:

Ever since I can remember, I have wanted a family of my own.  To be married, to have children, to grow old with the person I love. When I was young, my thoughts were very conventional, a wife, 2 children, picket fence, etc. At 18, I married my high school sweetheart and 5 months later, our son was born. My ‘perfect’ life evolved to what I had always hoped for … or so it seemed. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my wife very much, but something was just not ‘perfect’ about our life. Twelve years later we divorced. The reasons don’t matter now, but this new-found freedom of mine opened my eyes. I could be me … the me I had always known.

The years have flown by and I have always wanted to get married again.  One problem with that … gay marriage just hasn’t been a reality. Sure, we have had domestic partnerships and civil unions, but marriage? No, not yet. I’m sorry, but how do you say ‘Will you civil union me?’ or ‘Hey, how about a domestic partnership?’ … no, you say ‘Will You Marry Me?’  I have wanted to say that, for as long as I can remember, to the person I love.

After a few failed relationships, I reconnected with a man I once promised to meet. We connected, we fell in love and through the hurdles we have decided to share a life together. This man, I want to marry. Last Sunday, February 12th, I asked him to marry me. He said yes and I put a ring on his finger. We hope that by the time we actually have our ceremony that it will be legal in Washington State.

Spokane, WA

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