Reflections on Marriage Monday

IMG_2162Yesterday morning I went to the library to register to vote, determined to prevent any glitches in November with Wisconsin’s newly enforced voter ID law since I’d changed my middle name when Heather and I got married a year ago. A couple errands later I returned home, and Heather greeted me with, “Have you been on Facebook?” The intensity of her question, her raised eyebrows, body posture leaning slightly forward, elicited an internal, “Oh crap, what now?”

Irritated that the internet had been out all morning, I waited impatiently for her to spill whatever news she planned to share. The last thing I expected was, “Wendy texted, and something happened, and she says we’re married in Wisconsin now! But I haven’t been able to get the internet to connect so I don’t have any details.”

There followed twenty minutes of impatient fiddling with routers, computers and iPads until we once again established contact with the outside world. Presto, I’d gotten married in my home state of Wisconsin while I was filling out voter registration papers at the library! I’d been sure the Supreme Court would take one of the five marriage equality appeals before it, and we’d have a ruling sometime next June. I’d never expected SCOTUS to let stand the five Federal Appellate Court decisions affirming marriage equality, handing us instant marriage rights in our home state.

All sorts of emotions proceeded to spill forth. The predictable shock, surprise, excitement, and happiness came first, followed quickly by a sense of urgency to share the news with family members, friends, and anyone who would listen. I was also aware of sadness for all the couples in states where they still lack this basic right. From there, it got more complicated. I’m an organizer, and I’d had a script in mind. My scripts generally follow some image of “the way the world should be”, and invariably get me in trouble.

But nevertheless, the script read: SCOTUS will accept one of the cases, and we’ll have a ruling by next June making marriage equality the law of the land. This will be the perfect time for us to hold the Wisconsin wedding ceremony we said we were going to have last summer. The one with all four girls surrounding us, and our friends there, maybe on Picnic Point, or in the Council Ring, or at the center of our backyard labyrinth. The one that fell by the wayside when my dad died and I had a major parting of ways with my stepmom, soon after which my longstanding health issues became so severe that I had to take a (continuing) medical leave from work.

Caught off guard, I struggled to re-group. I recognized a deep need for celebration after all the uncertainty, hurt, and frustration the political ups and downs of the past several years have entailed. Most importantly, since we’d travelled to Iowa for the legal recognition we had yet to gain in our own state, and did so on short notice after the Supreme Court granted Federal recognition to same-sex marriages, our girls hadn’t been there with us.

In my fuzzy-brained logic, I needed a reason to explain to the world why our Wisconsin ceremony didn’t quickly follow our marriage in Dubuque. A celebration of what I’d anticipated would be a June 2015 equality ruling (by which time of course I’d enjoy glowing health) seemed perfect. As I unraveled the threads connecting my attachment to how things should be, I arrived at the conclusion that it doesn’t matter if our ceremony with the girls is a quiet event over winter break, a re-sharing of our vows with pizza and cake to follow, or an arbitrarily timed Picnic Point wedding, or even if we don’t hold a second ceremony at all.

What matters is the love. And we’ve messed up enough, and regrouped enough, and stuck it out through the hard times enough, and finally got it right and chilled out enough, that there is no way on this holy planet that the girls don’t see our love. Yes, I still want cake. Maybe even the rainbow-frosted, multi-tiered cake one of the girls has been talking about for years. But the long-held image of our girls in brightly colored dresses and a flower communion to symbolize the blending of two families—it just doesn’t have to happen that way.

What we did—Iowa, spur of the moment, our joy at the enthusiastic congratulations when we picked up our marriage license, the beautiful and welcoming Mandolin Inn, Heather’s parents and a friend beside us, the innkeeper jumping in as one of our witnesses, cupcakes afterwards, the sunrise over Dubuque the next morning and flocks of pelicans and cormorants rising off the river through the mist—wasn’t how we might have scripted things. But we were part of a quintessentially gay experience at a turning point in history, all the way down to the court case in our home state which handed us marriage rights for a day, then took them away again, and finally wound its way up to the Supreme Court.

How many people can say they’ve been directly affected by a Supreme Court case? Do we hear two Supreme Court cases? After unravelling the expectations in my own little head, which somehow featured a wildly outdated image of our youngest (now in high school) as a cherubic little flower girl, I decided it’s amazing to be a part of history. And it’s even more amazing that our daughters’ generation won’t have to share that experience. Because the tide has turned, and there’s no stopping it now. In the end, it’s all about love. Simple as that.