Today, we have the third and final post in a series by Part Time Monster Contributor Cat. She is my dearest friend, certainly my longest-running companion (we’ve been friends all our lives), and she and her wife, Heather, have recently gotten married. You can find part 1 of their story here and part two here.
I contacted my human resources department. When they politely told me we didn’t participate in domestic partnerships benefits, I just as politely responded that I knew that. I had a different question. Why? I work as a photographer. Three of the managers in the district I worked for alone were LGBT, and that was just management–not our teams. My company’s host store proudly advertised with same sex families; the spokes-person for the company was Ellen for goodness sake. Why were we proudly promoting our “equality” status but not offering benefits that would mean true equality to our employees? Did we just support LGBT guests who shopped with us, not those who worked within the company?
They had no answer. I pestered every person I could get on the phone with my question of why. No one could give me an answer. I spoke with other LGBT managers and discovered that they too would like to put their partners on their policies. Why couldn’t they? Well, I got enough people asking “why” that the answer soon became “why not.” By now we were in 2013. And not only did my company change its policy, but don’t ask don’t tell was history, DOMA wasn’t being enforced by the federal government, and the Supreme Court had come down with the decision that bans against same sex marriages were unconstitutional.
Now all these positive things happened and I was for the most part passive. I took the children to a vigil for equality while the Supreme Court debated so they would have a memory of the history of the moment and an understanding of the injustice we faced as a family. I changed my Facebook profile picture to the little equal sign, and I re-shared petitions and such. I stopped short of really lending my voice to the struggle though. I told myself it was out of sheer exhaustion from supporting the family without Heather’s full income, dealing with the new health problems, and being a mom, but I was lying to myself.
I didn’t advocate because I didn’t want to have to. I wanted my wedding to be about family, and the flowers, and the dress I was going to wear. Why did my wedding have to be a political statement? In a life of political statements, I wanted this moment’s meaning to only be about our love. Somehow fighting for equal rights left me feeling more unequal that any other action ever has. The ridiculousness of it, having to fight for the right to make such a personal decision, angered me and detracted from the emotions I wanted to feel. Also, the not so easy task of getting legally married loomed before us.
I had fought and won the right to include Heather on my insurance. Again I was angered by the very idea of having to win the right to purchase a product, which is what insurance is. Why did I have to win that? My company’s only requirement was that we had to be legally married. My wedding was now a legal requirement.
We shifted our attention to planning a trip to Washington D.C. We were again giving up things that straight couples never had to. We couldn’t pull our children out of school for the week that we would have to be in D.C. so they had to be told that they couldn’t be our flower girl and ring bearer. We had to deal with the financial burden of staying seventeen hundred miles from home for a week. Because of the waiting period between applying for and getting our marriage license, Heather and I had to take off a week and a half from work.
Now I can tell you that in that moment when the preacher was saying those words over us, as we were making promises to each other, none of it mattered. In those moments it was everything any bride could ever ask for because I was marring my soul mate. When we kissed, applause erupted from atop the Kennedy Center where all the kitchen staff had stuck their heads out of a door to watch us. We hadn’t even noticed them. These strangers’ well wishes and happiness for us overwhelmed me. What would it have been like if that had been our family and friends? What if it had been our children who looked on clapping?
I’m so thankful that we have come this far. Heather and I have a love that poets right about, but our love story won’t be found in the literature book but a history book. I feel selfish for feeling the losses when I have so much. I know in the grand scheme of social justice that giving up the romance of my wedding, and the practical almost business approach that all LGBT couples in states where same sex unions still aren’t legal have to give their union, is just a small sacrifice. But then again… It was my wedding, and the feeling of the most spiritual moment of my life taken out of the context of love and family and beauty and delegated to the world of requirements and petitions and pending legal statuses is something no one should feel on their wedding day.