Ed and I got married in 1998. And again in 2011. Then our marriage got federally augmented in 2013. And now finally in 2015 the state of our union will be fully recognized in every state of the Union. It’s been a long time coming but our day has come.
Let’s start the celebration with the original recording of “Our Day Will Come” by Ruby and the Romantics.
Today, June 26, 2015, in fact just minutes before I posted this piece, the Supreme Court ruled that the United States Constitution guarantees a nationwide right to Same-Sex Marriage.
This Sunday’s Gay Pride marches will be especially festive. It has been a long time coming, for the LGBTQ community and for the nation as a whole. It has been a long day coming for Ed and me too. During our now 22 years together the nature of our relationship has grown and changed, but not nearly as much as the legal nature of our marriage.
Ed and I met April 25, 1993 in the back of a greyhound bus returning to New York from the large March for Gay Rights that had just taken place in Washington D.C. It was my first LGBT march, after having just attended the First National Bisexual Convention. The greyhound bus only had one seat left in the back when I got on, the seat next to Ed. Neither Ed nor I are the gregarious type likely to chat up strangers on a bus, but today we both made a conscious exception, each thinking it might be nice to meet someone. For the next 4½ hours we sat side by side getting to know each other. It was only after we got off the bus that I got a good look at Ed’s face from the front (rather than a ¾ profile) and noticed his height (six foot one) and broad shoulders.
After a year of dating Ed and I came to the mutual understanding that the anxiety of losing the other was now equal to the anxiety of facing a whole life time together, and that with every following day the former would grow and the latter would fade. In other words we were in love! After four years of toggling between a Chelsea and an Upper West Side studio apartment (our two bedroom unit connected by a 50 block hallway and the C subway line) we finally moved in together in Brooklyn and set the date for our marriage ceremony: April 25, 1998, the fifth anniversary of our meeting on that greyhound bus.
Let’s celebrate that day with Karen Carpenter’s smooth rendition of “Our Day Will Come” (and ignore the awkward radio announcer that mars the end of this track from the concept album “Now and Then”).
Our marriage would be a Quaker wedding ceremony augmented with musical framing and performances, as Quakerism is Ed’s religion and Music is mine. Friends of ours at the last minute arranged for us to mutually break a wine glass under a white napkin as a gesture towards my Jewish background (if not Faith). Everyone who attended signed the Marriage Certificate, as is Quaker custom. This wedding was not legally binding. There was no legally recognized same-sex marriage anywhere in the USA at that time. The only legal document available to us from our government was a New York City Domestic Partnership Certificate, which only had any real legal bearing if one of us was a city civil servant, and even then it didn’t grant much legal protection. But it was something at least.
In our hearts though, legal recognition or no, April 25, 1998 is the year Ed and I got married. It just took our country a long time to catch up to that reality.
In 2000 Vermont became the first state to ratify Civil Unions for same sex couples, the “separate but equal” solution to the marriage question. In 2004 Massachusetts became the first state to grant full marriage equality. One by one New England states (and Iowa!) followed suit, except for New York. Considering New York is, with the Stonewall Riots, the putative birthplace of the modern Gay Rights movement, this lagging behind began to feel rather embarrassing. Ed and I didn’t want to get legal papers in Connecticut or Canada. We waited for New York State to do the right thing, and it finally did, through the legislature rather than the courts, in 2011. It took 13 years for New York to finally catch up to recognizing our marriage.
How about raising a bubbly non-alcoholic glass to Amy Winehouse’s cool cat rendition of “Our Day Will Come”:
We had to go to the city clerk’s office to get officially married in New York State. We didn’t want to wait until 2012 to get “re-married” on our anniversary, so we chose our half-anniversary date October 25, 2011. Whereas our real wedding was an all day shindig attended by two hundred friends and family members, Ed and I refused to treat this day as anything special – we were already married, this was just signing the paper work to get New York State caught up, that’s all – and so we arrived with just the required two witnesses, and one additional friend who insisted. We joked and made light of the whole thing.
When the Justice of the Peace asked if we had any rings, we pointed out that we already had been wearing ours for thirteen and a half years. Still, when she recited the official text and we repeated the words, Ed and I were suddenly struck by the weight of this event regardless of how much we didn’t wish for it to in any way minimize what we had already done in 1998. You can see it in our faces in the pictures our witnesses took at that very moment.
One by one other states followed suit. On road trips Ed and I would joke about losing and regaining our legal status depending on what state we were in. “Oh, no, we just entered New Jersey. We’re not married anymore. “ “Yeah, Maryland! We’re married again!” and so on.
Taxes became an interesting conundrum. I got my taxes done through VITA, the volunteer tax service for members of Actor’s Equity. When I signed up for an appointment in February 2012 I was first in the sign up line to ask about being legally married in New York State but not legally married in the United States of America. All heads in the vicinity turned towards me. This was a tax question that broke new ground. And for the next two years getting our taxes done would be a lot more complicated than it was before.
But the Day of the Feds would come. In 2013 the Supreme didn’t go far enough in its ruling on California’s prop 8 and DOMA, but it did go far enough as to assert that the Federal Government had to recognize our New York State marriage. And it is that ruling which set off a cascade of states affirming marriage equality. While by 2013 we had only around 16 states with marriage equality, by 2015 we had only around 13 without. Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court finally affirms marriage equality for the whole nation.
So let’s celebrate with another go at “Our Day Will Come”, this time the cast of Glee celebrating the double wedding of Kurt and Blaine and Santana and Bree during one of their final episodes:
I didn’t realize you were such early pioneers! On this happy day, mazel tov (and whatever they say in Quaker) to you both! 🙂
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I’m enjoying this so much–and glad to be able to find my name in the first column on your Quaker marriage certificate. What a beautiful day that was.
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We were there from the beginning. Drove from Wisconsin to New York with electric roasters to cook for the “pot luck” following the Quaker “silence”(rather all 200 gathered there were “moved to speak” ! almost”)
Lots of Madisonians on that wedding certificate. It set the stage for the future. Won’t be long
before we can celebrate 25 years. My how time flies. Much Love, Jo and Joe (Ed’s parents)
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