Thursday, October 14, 2010

Marriage Equality... It really DOES feel different.

In  the musical  "Guys & Dolls", long suffering  night club star, Adelaide  has been "engaged" to gambler Nathan Detroit for  fourteen years.   In the song  "Adelaide's Lament"  she  sings of her desire to FINALLY get married  and how  the stress of not knowing when or if she ever will,  is giving her a cold.

At the risk of being  completely clichéd,  the  now  decades long  saga of  marriage  equality has,  had same sex couples in the United States  feeling  a lot  like  Adelaide.  back in the  1990's Bill Clinton  was going  to be the champion for  LGBT  Equality,  but instead  he signed both  the  Defense of Marriage Act,and the military's  "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy  into law.

Then came the 2008 election and  Illinois Senator Barack Obama.  Candidate Obama said he didn't  believe in  "Gay Marriage" but  said he fully supported Civil Unions and  promised to repeal the  Defense of Marriage Act.

Yet just this week,  President Obama had  "his Justice Department" file an appeal in federal court defending the Defense of Marriage Act  and putting forward the argument that  allowing same sex couples  equal rights somehow would cause harm to  the United States.   Thanks a lot  Mr. "Fierce Advocate"...

And  in the middle of all this  debate on DOMA and  Proposition 8 here in California, which banned  same sex marriage.   We have not even touched the  issue of how the lack of  Marriage Equality impacts  bi-national same sex couples;  Where one person is an American and the other is not, and many couples are forced apart by that.   

Or,  as is becoming more and more common,  the American half the couple is forced to choose between love or country,  and  move to one of the twenty nations   that give equal treatment under the law to same sex couples.

And that is where our story begins.   in 2008 and 2009, my partner Eric and I did what a lot of  same sex couples did.  We waited to see if President Barack Obama would keep the promises he made as  candidate Barack Obama.

When it became clear that the inspiring words he spoke to LGBT voters were just that,  words,  we began the process  to apply for a Civil Partnership Visa,  for me to move to the U.K.
The United Kingdom has Civil Unions for same sex couples that have the same rights as Heterosexual marriages.   So  Eric  would be able to sponsor me as a spouse to live and work in the  U.K.   We started this process back in  January  and it is a long, tedious and  very expensive one.    Back in July  we  finally submitted all the required documentation, financial records, letters from friends and family,  airline ticket receipts, telephone bills and skype chat transcripts all proving our relationship was real.  
Then we waited  to hear back from the U.K. Home Office if the visa was approved,  and have been waiting ever since.

This afternoon I was sitting at  my desk at work,  it was one of those days that you could swear someone had tied invisible weights to the hands the the clock because the day  was just going by so slowly.   I had just finished a very long and  somewhat dry conference call , when I heard the  familiar  buzzing sound of my blackberry and felt  the vibration on my hip.   

As I started working on a power point presentation, I  took out my Blackberry and  hit the key to open the email that had just come in.   What I saw on the screen was this:  

 "Your application has been approved and the visa has been issued.  Please check your visa immediately on receipt to ensure that we have completed your visa correctly. Please send details of any errors or omissions to ASAP."    

 Many well intentioned  people, both inside and outside the LGBT Community have often asked what is the "big deal" about  Federal recognition  of Same Sex couples,  after all  with powers of attorney, living wills and the like,  Gay couples can have the same basic rights and protections  as opposite sex couples.  

Did it really matter if the Government gave its blessing or even its permission?   Libertarian friends of mine have long argued that  Government has no business being involved with marriage at all, and  it should be simple matter of  contract law.   So does  having  a Government say  "Ok, you can get  married"  really make any difference?  I often wondered that myself.  Many couples  have "commitment ceremonies" with family and friends in spite of the lack of  civil recognition.  Does  some sort of official civic approval really matter?

Then today I sat at my desk and  saw that short, to the point email message, in which  the Government of the United Kingdom was essentially saying to me;   "We approve of you and Eric  wanting to spend the rest of your lives together,  Cheers!".  The answer to that question was as clear as the text  on my blackberry screen.  

Yes,  it does make a difference.    

It does  feel different  when Government, the  civic will and voice of a society says  that  you matter,  you count  just  as much as everybody else does.  Your relationship,  your love,  your life that  you  want to build together,  is just as valid as everybody else's.    

How does that feel?  It feels incredible.

I have to admit  I didn't get much work done after that.   Instead I found myself staring at my blackberry with a huge grin on my face,  thinking one thought for most the rest of the day.

I'm Getting Married!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

David, so happy that you and Eric have been recognized by the UK! I am facing the same situation: partner=US citizen, my (biological) child=US born/citizen, me? Kicked out next July unless I find another job and/or UAFA passes before then (UK citizen). Am proud to be British and that my country recognizes your relationship. But sad and embarrassed for the US....