Most couples have one wedding anniversary. Lora and I, like thousands of our LGBT peers around the United States, have a few more dates to celebrate.
You see, when we got engaged in October, 2011, only six states (plus Washington DC) had legalized same-sex marriage. New York was the last to join this list in July 2011. Since its eponymous city is close to both of our hearts, we chose to marry there.
On a clear, crisp autumn day in 2012, we made our commitment to each other, surrounded by loving family and friends. October 13th is our anniversary, but legally, we were just beginning the journey. You see, when we returned home to Florida, federal and state law considered us no more than roommates. Like the good taxpayers we are, we filed our 2012 taxes. But we were forced to file separately, each of us checking the “single” box on our 1040s. Though our marriage certificate listed our new last names, it was not valid documentation to legally change our names on our passports, social security cards, or driver licenses. If either of us were hospitalized (as I was in January 2012), there was no guarantee the other would be allowed to visit.
2013 brought some big changes. On June 26th, the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act. Beginning that year, my wife and I were able to file taxes together. We also could have changed our names on federal documents. Of course, our state still didn’t recognize our marriage, and the ruling didn’t change that. Since neither of us wanted the hassle of two legal names, we continued to use our married names only informally. 2013 was also the year when the tide began turning broadly toward support for marriage equality. By year’s end, the number of states with legal same-sex marriage had swelled to 14, including our first wins by popular vote in Maryland, Maine, and Washington State.
In 2014, the wave of state support ballooned, with 35 states supporting equality by year’s end. Many of these states used the ballot box to achieve equality. Many others had appealed Circuit Court rulings for same-sex marriage, requesting that their bans be allowed to remain intact. In October 2014, the Supreme Court denied judicial review in a number of the appeals, effectively bringing marriage equality to these states. We celebrated the many victories, and lived our lives, waiting for our situation to change.
And it did in 2015. The year started off with a bang, when the federal stay on same-sex marriage in Florida expired. Despite Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s promises to continue the fight against marriage equality, we celebrated another important marriage event on January 6, 2015. On that day, Lora and I officially became a married couple where we live, in Florida. We spent the next few months happily enduring the (often painful!) process of legally changing our names, proudly handing over our 2.5 year old marriage certificate as proof of our union. We knew we could now visit each other in the hospital without a fight. That there would be no question of our relationship in the event of a tragedy. And we felt proud to live in a state where our son knew our family was respected. But we also knew that, if we should move to another state, we may not have the same rights.
That changed on Friday, June 26, 2015, the third marriage event in our journey. The day our marriage was unequivocally declared to be equal and just in our country, from sea to shining sea. Justice Kennedy’s stirring words moved me to tears:
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Our journey has only been a few years in the making. So many LGBT couples have the same story, but spread over decades, even 40-50 years. I can only imagine how those couples felt on Friday. It means something to read the official word of our highest court, saying that our relationships matter. It means something to see rainbows covering social media and public buildings. It means we’ve moved forward as a country. It means that the United States values the importance of equal treatment for its citizens.
October 13, 2012
January 6, 2015
June 26, 2015
It took three separate events, but as of last Friday, my wife and I finally have an equal marriage in the eyes of our country. And it feels fantastic!
P.S. For a full history of the country’s marriage equality journey, please see this detailed timeline: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/pages/history-and-timeline-of-marriage.