I Wouldn’t Vote on Your Marriage

My wife and I lived in California during Proposition 8. We got married before the vote, “just in case,” although I swore (clearly ignorantly) that a state wouldn’t vote to take an already extended right away from its people. We saw our share of “Save Marriage” bumper stickers, but I was unshaken until the election proved me wrong. Then, I was filled with pure rage; a sense of utter gall that someone else would vote about my marriage­­.

Obviously marriage is a political and social institution, blah blah blah. I am used to hearing both sides of the argument and even courting both sides in classes. But, when you are married and there is a vote affecting the validity of your own marriage, it feels very personal. I felt as if this was some new horrible TV show, Marriage Survivor. I wanted to put up signs all over our front yard saying, “I wouldn’t vote on your marriage. Shame on you for voting on mine.”

Gradually I got used to other indignities that followed—although our marriage remained legal in CA, others couldn’t marry and few places or authorities outside of California recognized our marriage. We still had to pay taxes on imputed income on health benefits we provided to one another at the federal level for several years. We still had to keep a folder of legal documents verifying our connection to one another for when we traveled. We now live in Arizona and our marriage stops at the California line. When we drive back to California, we can literally step in and out of marriage at the state line. We had to get all new legal documents for AZ since our marriage and its rights are not recognized here.

All the rage came back to me when the gay marriage cases started to be argued this week in front of the Supreme Court. I had the same reaction I did to the passage of Proposition 8: How dare you vote on my marriage as if my marriage is something you should have the right to validate or not? How would Thomas or Scalia feel if I got to vote on their marriages? Oh, wait, Supreme Court justices did vote to allow marriages like Thomas’s a while back, paving the way for him to enjoy a liberty that I don’t get to freely enjoy.

And don’t even get me started on the “let’s-drag-this-out-because-(some)-people-aren’t-ready” argument. Maureen Dowd had a nice op-ed on this, noting that in decisions like Citizens United, the Court was all too happy to race out in front of Americans to make very controversial decisions but seemingly stands ready to abdicate their constitutional obligation to protect my rights now—not tomorrow, or in several years, or when it’s convenient for them, but now.

I guess all this rambling is to step aside from the legal and academic arguments about marriage equality to say that I am truly angry that people even get the opportunity to vote on my marriage, whether it is my fellow citizens or nine folks in black robes. There is an indignity in even having to request your rights instead of just having hem, and an even greater indignity in being told you can’t have them just yet because other folks aren’t quite ready. Now, if straight folks want to even up the game and give me the right to vote on their marriages, maybe we could talk…

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