Friday, May 1, 2009

Personal-ish: Marriage (Almost)

Front of the Iowa marriage license application. I got to be "Party B!"

I'm not a big fan of change, but if things are going to be changing anyway, then we may as well do all of it at once. (This is otherwise known as "As long as the noose is around my neck, I may as well jump off the horse" logic.)

The husband and I applied for a marriage license yesterday, though we are not going to be going forward with the actual ceremony immediately, because certain house-related things work out more neatly if we don't get married until after I'm done with my job. But this is kind of close enough for now anyway. Our apartment manager, who was also our real estate agent, graciously agreed (on really short notice) to serve as our witness1 for the application, and consequently is so totally getting a houseplant or a flower arrangement or something.2

Back of the Iowa marriage license application. Note the "Competent and Disinterested Person" bit.)

The date is also significant.

On April 30, 1997, twelve years ago, a few minutes after the end of the much-hyped "Ellen" episode where Ellen officially came out as gay (even though everybody knew for like, months before, and were sick of hearing about it already by the time it aired), I called my parents and told them I am gay. This wasn't because I was especially bonded to Ellen DeGeneres or anything: I like her, and I had watched the show, which was funny enough as sitcoms went, but it wasn't like I felt that if Ellen was coming out then I had to as well. It was more just, it had been increasingly difficult to talk to Mom and Dad about anything that was going on in my life around that time: among other things, I'd just gotten back from an abortive 64-day move to DC, involving an ex who I'd not been entirely willing to think of as "ex" yet,3 and although I talked to Mom on the phone a lot, at least weekly, not being able to acknowledge the nature of our relationship -- or, increasingly, any of my other relationships -- made for some awkwardness.

The new house comes with a very large maple tree in the back. It indicates something or another about the property line, though we're not sure exactly what.

They took it better than anticipated, though it'd be a stretch to say they took it well. I was kind of a wreck before and after also, as far as that goes. Which is another story, for another time. The point being, that was the date. At that time, there was a little bit of talk about gay marriage in Hawaii, possibly, enough to scare people into passing Defense of Marriage Acts all over the place,4 but nobody seriously believed that it would be legal anytime soon.

This is what will eventually become the plant room. Originally a three-seasons room, we're going to try to add another season. Seasons, it turns out, are not cheap.

So there's been a lot of change already, I guess is my point. Fairly recently, a CBS poll showed a jump of nine percentage points in one month of respondents who favored full marriage equality, to 42% of the U.S. population, and an ABC poll this week came up with an even higher number, 49%. That would basically have been unthinkable to me twelve years ago: my expectation was that when I did get married, it would have to be a ceremony with no legal significance, and it'd be regarded as weird at best, offensive at worst. Instead, it looks like we're going to get the legal significance without the ceremony, and most people won't really give a crap. Which would be delightful.

By the way: the recorder who helped us with the application said that Monday (the first day same-sex couples could marry in Iowa) was pretty crazy for them, and Tuesday was nearly as bad, Wednesday was pretty slow, and then Thursday would have been slow except that everybody from Monday was coming back to pick up their licenses. We didn't see any other couples when we were there. She also said that they had sixteen or seventeen (I forget which) couples coming up from Missouri on a bus tomorrow to get married. Apparently then they'll go back to Missouri and say they're married and gin up a court case or two when they find some people in Missouri who don't recognize this. It's unfortunate that lawmakers don't seem particularly interested in considering the constitutionality of laws when they're making them, that everything has to go through this process of being challenged and sorted out, but better that than have legislators passing any old law that flits through their heads. That would be terrible.

I have an aunt and uncle who will be doing everything in their power (which is not very extensive, but still) to prevent the Missouri people's marriages from being recognized: I wish the various couples luck.

The previous owners' attempt at a garden. Nothing identifiable here. It makes me a little uneasy that they felt they had to fence it in: I'm developing a serious fear of rabbits all of a sudden. ("Bunnies! Bunnies! It must be bunnies!")

The actual official marriage will probably be in June, though I dislike the idea of having a June wedding (just 'cause everybody else does it: November or December are more my months, but that's a long time to wait). That's when my job will be over. It'll probably be really low-key and anticlimactic, but that's okay.

We do have some concerns, still, about moving to a small town (and by small, I mean small: under 1200 people). We'd really rather not be everybody's first married gay couple. I feel enough like a target as it is.5

We inherited these from the previous owners. Not really our style, I think.

So that's the last of the bombshells. Getting the marriage license was mostly just surreal. We'll be back to plant-related content tomorrow, though after all this it's going to seem awfully trivial, I'm afraid.


1 Amusingly, the Iowa marriage application calls this role "Competent and Disinterested Person," rather than the clearer but less precise "witness." I would love to have a competent and disinterested person around at all times.
2 Why her? Well, it turns out that there are not actually very many people who know both of us in the area, and even fewer who would conceivably be available on short notice to do something like this, for one thing, and for another thing, she has a gay brother in Vermont, who is I believe civil-unioned there and who will (one assumes) be getting married in September when Vermont starts doing that. So we were guessing that she's basically okay with the general concept. According to her husband, who I spoke to for a little bit this afternoon, she and her brother were sort of bragging on their respective states for being the third state to legalize (Iowa) or the first state to legalize legislatively, rather than judicially (Vermont), so one supposes participation in a gay wedding gives her more points from which to argue, or something. She didn't say, and we didn't really talk about it: she had other things to do.
3 The DC period was a miserable time, though the misery wasn't because of the ex. Culture shock, undiagnosed clinical depression (I'm pretty sure.), graduating college without any kind of plan for what to do next, a week of the flu, and various other things, but not really the ex so much.
4 Which I'd never known exactly what the DOMAs actually said until today: they're apparently primarily there to ensure that the states with DOMAs don't have to honor same-sex marriages performed in other states, even if they were legal in those other states. Some states have actually gone further and pre-emptively banned civil union sorts of arrangements as well. At this point, there's a law or constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in every state except New Mexico (hasn't passed anything one way or the other), Iowa/Connecticut/Massachusetts (have full marriage equality), Vermont (will have full marriage equality as of September), New York, DC, and Rhode Island (will honor marriages performed elsewhere), and New Jersey (has civil unions). Every other state prohibits SSM to some degree or another, though several states (WA, OR, CA, CO, HI, MD, NH, ME) have one set of laws approving some form of same-sex partnership and one set banning, simultaneously, which will need to be worked out at some point in the near future.
5 Not that people in small towns in Iowa can't also be perfectly accepting and friendly and everything else, or that big city folk are always live-and-let-live about everything: I've met one Iowa City resident who looked like your run of the mill sweet little old lady, but had a personality that could strip the paint off the walls, set the paint chips on fire, and then turn the ashes to poisonous snakes. It's just that small-towns are sort of known for everybody being all up in everybody else's business, and this is kind of a weird thing to walk into deliberately, given the circumstances.


our friend Ben said...

First of all, obviously, congratulations!!! And while June may be kind of hokey (I like October myself), at least it's pretty. And btw, love the house, tree, and FENCE!!! (Wish we had one here... ) I think your plant room's going to be great. So, er, when are you all actually moving?

Anonymous said...

WOW!!! Everything looks fantastic! How did you manage to find a house with the perfect plant room! Good luck moving to a small town. DH and I aren't your typical marriage, but in a small town people can't be mean to each other, it just wouldn't work.

Neuk├Âllner Botschaft said...

Great Pics.
Great Lights.
All the best,


Paul Anater said...

Wow. Holding that license application had to have been surreal to say the least. Congratulations to both of you!


arythrina said...

I'm so happy for you! And I just love to see a marriage application that has *optional* boxes to check for husband/wife/spouse!! The future is here.

Lance said...

I certainly never expected to see it in my lifetime. I'm sure it's an odd feeling. Congratulations though - June wedding - wearing white - all the standards. Ok, just my sick mind amusing itself.

Cool looking house too.

And bunnies - man eating bunnies...

Kenneth Moore said...

Or maybe midgets...

Dude, fuckin' rights! Marriages are excitement! Think of the reception in your backyard! YOU CAN GROW YOUR OWN VEGGIE PLATTER! "Oh, are we out of the broccoli bites? Here, Random Guest #22, take these clippers and get to work."

This is all very exciting, Mr. S!

And yes, DC kind of blows. But as long as you know how to tune out everyone around you and ignore completely everything that's going on in the world, you can survive pretty well here. But props to you on getting the hell out of here and having such awesomeness in Iowa!

The Succulent Dish said...

CONGRATULATIONS! Best wishes for every happiness life has to offer. Please know that you are supported here in Kansas City!! I am SO jealous of your new Plant Room!!! LUCK!!

AG said...

Congratulations!!! All the very best to both of you. This former Nebraskan hopes that the joy will soon spread to her home state next door.

Perky Skeptic said...

Fan-TAS-tic!!! Congratulations and big hugs to you and your soon-to-be husband!!!

Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ said...

Wow, three of life's biggest happenings all at once! Congratulations for sure! I think it all will be great for you! I am selfishly hoping you will not be too distracted by all these changes to continue with this wonderful blog. It's just the best out there. I'll think positively and hope that it will be expanding to include some outdoor gardening!

vuejardin said...

Congratulations! I am so happy for both of you. It must be so excited, enjoy your newly wed life and remember to post more photos :)

Best Wishes from VueJardin

Pam said...

Congratulations to you on all counts!

Shibaguyz said...

Congratulations on so many levels here… This year will mark our 15th anniversary of the day we were married. Maybe, eventually, we will sign a piece of paper like yours. It's a wonderful thing for a gay activist from the 80's like myself to see this actually happening.

Best of luck to you two. Looking forward to seeing how your property develops!

Anonymous said...

Oh, whoopee and congratulations on everything. Great yard, great maple tree, and the plant room I could die for. And hey, invite the bunnies to the feast - you can fence them out later.

Julia said...

Many congratulations Mr S! An exciting time ahead of you by the sound of things!

Water Roots said...

Congratulations on all the happy events coming up in your life. Enjoy them; you certainly deserve them.

sheila said...

Three big congratulations are in order, but especially on your upcoming marriage!

Good luck on the plant sales and/or book - you have some great advice from the publisher here! Hooray! Can I buy an autographed copy when it's done?

That plant room will be awesome. I'm thinking skylights and probably some serious insulation (my best friend has a similar issue wanting to turn an enclosed but uninsulated front porch into a four-season room).

Oh, and my fantasy plant room would have concrete floors that slope down to a drain in the middle, like in a locker room. And an indoor hose spigot...And...And...And...

J said...

Yay, Misters S! (Well, soon anyway!) This is such wonderful news! You have hit all three big ones in a week: work, home, love. And you're still standing and talking about it all. My best and biggest congratulations to you. Wonderful wonderful!

(Your yard doesn't look like it will be shady AT ALL. Nice place for a vegetable garden!)