Rights and Privileges

When the federal judge struck down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage, I didn’t expect to cry. After all, it was more or less a foregone conclusion. The state flat-out refused to defend its own law in court. Requests from out-of-state conservative activist groups to defend the ban, and later, to stay the ruling, were denied. According to a recent public opinion poll, 58% of Oregonians support gay marriage. The judge himself is gay, has a partner and a son. So I wasn’t exactly worried.

Almost ten years ago, Oregon voted on the infamous Measure 36. I was in Washington, DC for work. I watched the results of the referendum roll across my hotel room TV screen in utter shock. Measure 36, which would amend the Oregon constitution to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman, passed. It wasn’t even close. 57% of Oregonians voted for it.

I cried then. I sobbed, sitting alone in my room in our nation’s capital, still in my suit and heels. I truly was convinced that there was no way Oregon — beautiful, amazing, welcoming Oregon — would pass such a hateful law. But they did, and it felt like 1,028,546 people had slapped me in the face.

All the right things were said. Celebrities and activists condemned the decision. Local organizations vowed to continue the fight. Friends expressed their condolences, and my partner and I swallowed our bitterness, trying to stay hopeful. Eventually that bitterness faded, but it was always there: a hint of quinine on the back of the tongue. We decided to throw a wedding anyway. Our friends and families were there. Our closest friend officiated at the ceremony. We changed our names and made plans for a family of our own.

In 2007 Oregon passed a law creating the “separate but equal” status of Registered Domestic Partners, granting us all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of marriage. Filing that paperwork was about as romantic as paying your water bill, but a friend served as our notary and we gathered at the local watering hole to drink chocolate martinis all night long.

Other states passed marriage laws, but mostly we stopped paying attention. We had two boys who occupied most of our time and energy. We had jobs to think about, and daycare, an ailing cat, vacations, house projects. (You know, the famous gay agenda.) Instead of the big picture, we were focused on our own tiny piece of the tapestry as attitudes changed around us.

Until today. At noon on Monday, May 19, 2014, Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage was deemed unconstitutional. I got a text alert somewhere in the Housewares section of Ikea. I showed it to my partner. We smiled at each other and went on looking for the drawer organizer we needed.

It was the top story on the news later, of course. The camera showed dozens of people cheering, celebrating, waving their new marriage certificates, hugging their new spouses and their children. And I cried. I did. I cried for all those people who got married today after 5, 15, 33 years together — or more. I cried for their kids. I cried out of sheer gratefulness that I could glance at a world-changing text message and continue on with my shopping.

We briefly talked about running down to the county office to grab our marriage license this afternoon. But there was grocery shopping to be done, kids to pick up at daycare, blog posts to write. We’ll get around to it soon enough. It’s our right and our privilege, now.

[Update: We did eventually tie the knot, legally and officially. Because taxes.]

82 thoughts on “Rights and Privileges

  1. aedmonds315 says:

    It’s about time for Every state to make marriage legal for all couples who love each other.
    It blows my mind that a man and woman can get drunk in Vegas and get married.
    It has to be so hard for couples who are gay or lesbian to have to sit back and watch these stories of couples who met in a club. And since they are heterosexual the sanctity of marriage becomes a joke.
    It’s just sad. And all these states have to stop and actually talk to some of these couples that have been waiting, fighting for their love to be recognized.


  2. 2futuremommies says:

    I was just out of high school 10 years ago when Michigan passed the same law and Bush was re-elected. I remember watching the election results rolling in that night and I too, cried. A lot has changed in 10 years, including a judge here in Michigan ruling the ban unconstitutional, and then the decision being stayed pending a court of appeals decision.

    Thank you for this post, and I wish you all the best 🙂


  3. Nilgoon says:

    amazing Blog! I indeed enjoyed every bit of it, and I have bookmarked you to check out new stuff you post. I’m rеally impressed along with yоur writing talents. thanks for the fantastic read, keep up the good work!


  4. makingbabydreamsareality says:

    Congratulations it makes me so happy that our rights are finally being respected. It’s so important especially for those with children and for everyone to feel like a unit, like they matter ,like they are part of a complete married family just like heterosexual families.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. kevers003 says:

    That is so awesome!
    We need to move into a world that is more accepting and tolerable…just because someone is different than you doesn’t mean you have to shame them.
    I used to hate gays, and it pisses me off that I use to. Because gay people are the exact same as heterosexual people. And nobody should be held back from love, and ability to get married and have a family.
    This is an awesome post!


  6. bveltrop72 says:

    Beautifully written. Congratulations! I often wonder what my father’s life would be like had he not died from AIDS in 1988. I spent many years angry at him for breaking up our family but now I realize he was finally getting to be his true self. The man that married my mom and tried to live as he was expected was living a lie. Yes my mom was devastated when he came out but my sister and I would have been orphaned in our teens because my dad would have passed the AIDS virus to mom.


    • Christine says:

      Wow, what a tough thing to experience, and what an amazing peace you’ve made. It’s for people like your dad that I cried, who missed this incredible time, never got to see what life could be with equal rights. I mean, I know we’re not completely there yet, but it will happen in my lifetime, and my kids will never fully understand this struggle – and that’s a good thing. I’m okay with them taking some things for granted.


  7. Humans Are Weird says:

    To me, the idea of living for another 200 years seems beyond preposterous. Eww. No thanks, man. But I’d love to be around for the time when humanity, as a whole, look back on our era, the one happening now, shaking their heads in utter awe, wondering how on earth such blanketing laws of discrimination could have existed. Why posts such as this must still be written is a complete mystery to me. Nevertheless, we’ve gotta write ’em. Well said.


  8. Wyatt says:

    This is the most touching part of a touching post, “But there was grocery shopping to be done, kids to pick up at daycare, blog posts to write. We’ll get around to it soon enough. It’s our right and our privilege, now.” I love this. It made this blasé New Yorker sit up, take notice, and even get teary eyed. Wow.


  9. Kathy Berney says:

    Maine passed a same sex marriage law a handful of years ago. It was one of the first states to do so, and I was a proud Mainer. Then, in an off year election, out of state Catholic groups pumped money into the state and succeeded in having the law overturned in a referendum that did not reflect the will of a majority of Maine voters. That off year sleazy politicking strategy got righted by another referendum Maine voters were not going to let fail due to complacency. Is getting married to a consenting adult your privilege? I don’t know. But I know it is your right. And I’m once again proud to live in Maine,(except when I think about our current governor). Thank you for your thought provoking piece.


  10. Jenn B. says:

    I can relate. for the past few years I often surprise myself by crying in my car whenever there’s good news about gay marriage on NPR. Like one time, after an interview with Dan Savage, Audie Cornish read his bio and referred to his partner Teri as his “husband.” I blubbered like a fool.


  11. Kylie says:

    It made me cry…but also smile with joy!

    I forgot that you are also in Oregon. We have such a reputation for being progressive, but that’s just a bubble up here in PDX and around the universities. We still have a long way to go on so many fronts here.


  12. innatejames says:

    When I hear newscasters report things like the strike-down of Measure 36 or Prop 8, I immediately recall all of the polls those same newscasters report about fifty-odd percent of Americans being in favor of gay marriage. It’s confusing; those mixed messages. Thanks for reemphasizing how important Oregon’s decision is by making it personal!


  13. iemergedinlondonrain says:

    I’m not sure I’ll ever forget that feeling on Monday. I was there to watch friends celebrate, smiling, misty-eyed, and just so incredibly happy. And relieved. I did my best not to cry, since I was in a Starbucks lobby, but I still squeaked out a few.

    Marriage is something I always took for granted, but I’ve watched as ignorance and hate have hurt those that I call friends. And while the fight is far from over, we Oregonians can finally rejoice, and call ourselves equals!

    Congratulations to you and your (future) wife!


  14. jethag says:

    So happy more states are seeing the light. Last year in CA, Prop. 8 was overturned. I’d been so bitter when it passed, but celebrating the many marriages and general shift in consciousness was exhilarating.


  15. Cindy - The Reedster Speaks says:

    I cried too. I cried so hard when New York fell because I NEVER thought New York would fall and I was living there at the time. I cried when Prop 1 in North Carolina banning gay marriage passed in the last election because we had worked so so hard against it. And I cried this week, because I have two friends who officiate weddings in Portland and they posted beautiful pictures all day of them marrying loving couples. One of them said, “It felt like the Berlin Wall falling.” I’m crying a little bit right now.


  16. anolivedaily says:

    I was born and raised in Oregon and I couldn’t be more proud. Having spent my childhood in Eugene and Portland, I was always so shocked this didn’t happen sooner. The diversity of people there is amazing. Tolerance and acceptance are taught in schools. There are countless gay bars and parades each year. So why didn’t the votes reflect that? Even though it’s confusing, I’m so glad Oregon’s laws finally match the loving and accepting spirit the state has always had.


    • Christine says:

      I think it’s easy to forget that Oregon is not just Portland and Eugene and the I-5 corridor. There’s a whole other side to the state that is far less progressive on social issues. But it’s one of the reasons we moved to Portland in the first place – that welcoming, accepting attitude. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been quite as surprised as I was that Measure 36 passed. It definitely opened my eyes.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading!


  17. Sabina says:

    This post is amazing. I’m from Oregon too, and my godmothers are gay. I don’t know if they’re planning to get married, but they’ve been together since before I was born, and I am so glad they can have an extra level of recognition (and the rights and privileges that comes along with it) before the law. Not to mention the symbolic meaning behind being granted equal rights–it’s been a long time coming.


    • Christine says:

      We’ve been together nearly 20 years. We managed to leave Vermont just before the civil union law passed there, and moved to Oregon as all the northeastern states started passing pro-marriage laws. We knew it would hit Oregon eventually. 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I really appreciate it.


  18. gyoung03 says:

    Congratulations! I agree that it was long in coming. Being OR born and raised I lived through Measure 9 in the 90’s and was glad that it never passed but was surprised that eventually something did pass. Marriage Equality is important to all! Glad OR finally got their act together, especially since I will be moving back in the coming years.


  19. Shailaja /Doting Mom says:

    I am so happy for you, Christine! The very fact that you have come to a point when you are happy for the sake of happiness speaks volumes. Congratulations to you and your partner 🙂
    P.S. This your first time on the weekly grid?


  20. fatgirlinboxinggloves says:

    Congratulations, and yay Oregon! My wife and I got married in September, and it was bittersweet, because while major strides are being made, there are still a lot of states that need to wake up and come to the party.

    I love the way you ended this piece.


  21. jenbrunett says:

    The end of this is beyond amazing! I mean the whole thing is well told, of course! 🙂 But I’m just so happy for you and for everyone that can finally make it official!


  22. Shannon says:

    I’ve no words that haven’t been said a million ways by people with more skills of elucidation, but I just got such a great feeling from this. The only agenda in a new world order is equality, and I’m so happy for you and yours that you have this viable lovely home life without anyone else’s consent, and now have the choice to make it official. After you finish your dishes, of course 🙂


  23. cobourgcobbieCobbie's World says:

    I’ve always had a thing for IKEA! Now, every time I peruse the catalogue, watch a tv commercial or visit the store, I shall think of the two of you and smile. Thanks for throwing an allen key into the gears of repression and bigotry! 🙂 Congratulations.


  24. Natalie DeYoung says:

    Okay, now I’M crying a little over this.
    I can’t believe people in America still fight for bans like this (okay, well, the cynical side of me believes it). I know you don’t need the state of Oregon’s validation to make you guys a family, but still.
    Also, less importantly than the subject matter, this was such a well-written post, unlike this comment, which is all over the place because I am a romantic sap who is just so happy for you.


    • franhunne4u says:

      “I can’t believe people in America still fight for bans like this” – I cannot believe that in Germany one of the two ruling parties still fights against full equality for same-sex couples! The CDU (Christian-Democratic – need I say more) still has to be convinced by the Federal Court which defends our constitution that none of the inequalities are justifiable. And despite every single ruling against them that party still will not allow Lesbians or Gays to marry. With the same invalid reasoning, that allowing that would “weaken” the traditional marriage. I am neither belonging to the LGBTs nor do I want to marry – but nevertheless I can only hope one day even here in our country it does not matter anymore what genders are joined together.


  25. Martha B says:

    I say congrats with the bittersweet sentiment that a) this has taken so long, and b) this is still a law in our country that actually exists to be amended. I am so happy you guys can finally relax, but I’m bummed that we are so far behind in the human rights department as a whole.


  26. Lance says:


    I wish I lived in Oregon so I could crash your party and hug you both.

    Thank you for writing about this. I hope you and your partner have the longest legally happy life possible.


  27. Cameron says:

    So flipping happy for you two, mostly that you could have that small moment in IKEA and go on, as you say, with the fabric of your lives, knowing that now you can make that choice just the same as everyone else.

    Of course, you’ve been married in my eyes since I first saw you two together. It was pretty obvious. And stuff. Deeply agenda-ed. 😉 It had to only be a matter of time and persistence before the law opened its eyes; I’m just sorry it took so damn long.


  28. wcdameron says:

    Congratulations! I cry every time another state recognizes what we have known all along, allowing LGBT citizens to marry does not weaken the family, it strengthens it.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. cynkingfeeling says:

    So excited to see you on the challenge grid! Of course, I’m more excited to know you can get married. Instead of a million slaps on the face, I hope you are feeling a billion virtual hugs.


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