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.]