One October night, late, I wrote my signature. I was tipsy, exhausted, and joyful.
Downstairs in the art gallery, our wedding reception was winding down. Upstairs, Chris and I and Paul Frisby, our friend and wedding officiant, put pen to paper.
"Don’t ruin my record," Frisby said, "Everyone I’ve married is still together." With that, he tucked his pen into his pocket and made his way home. Chris and I regarded one another for a minute before returning to our party. A salsa band’s beats thumped the floor. Newlyweds. Words unfamiliar on the tongue: My wife. My husband.
In the time it took us to write our names, more than 1,100 rights were handed us. I have no earthly idea what they all even are, but piled much higher and carrying far more importance than the gifts awaiting us downstairs, these rights give credence to our partnership, lay ground rules for our lives, help to ensure our financial security, and ultimately, outlive us both.
My friend Betty was the best woman at our wedding and, while Chris and I were signing our marriage license, she was downstairs at the reception with Janet, her girlfriend of about a year and a half. They had come from Seattle to celebrate with us.
Many years later, in 2004, when Betty and Janet were plaintiffs in a court case suing their county for the right to marry, I wrote a column for the Trib about them, thanking them for being civil rights pioneers and saying it’s only fair they have the right to marry, just like Chris and me.
Last Saturday, on a rare and perfect blue-sky-and-sunshine Puget Sound day, our two friends did tie the knot, just months after the state of Washington enacted marriage equality. With their two children and with friends looking on, Betty and Janet finally said their vows, exchanged their rings, kissed in front of everyone and were pronounced married. It was a joyous day. Laughter, tears, music, champagne, cake, dancing.
That it took 22 years for these wonderful people, these amazing parents, these good, smart citizens, to be given a thing Chris and I barely realized or understood we were given long ago is a travesty and a shame our country will have to bear — along with the other ones: being on the wrong side of slavery, the woman’s vote, Japanese internment, rights for African Americans, Native Americans, people with disabilities, immigrants, women; on and on.
In retrospect we wince at our collective obstinacy, our blindness to the privileges we happily accepted, even when we could plainly see that some others, our equals, were being denied them.
The ink on Betty and Janet’s marriage license was barely dry, figuratively at least, when the Supreme Court of the United States of America officially recognized their marriage and affirmed that all rights given to any other married persons should and will be given to them. That day, the first day of Betty and Janet’s honeymoon, people all over the United States celebrated.
Couples who have waited even longer than Betty and Janet celebrated and began making wedding plans. Surviving partners of people who did not live long enough to legally marry cried and smiled, wistful for what could have been. Should have been.
There are still those who think marriage is only for certain people. (Four of them are on the Supreme Court.) This is no surprise and it’s no skin off my nose. They can think what they want. There are still people who think the Earth is 6,000 years old, too.
Doesn’t mean they’re right.
Barb Guy is a frequent contributor to these pages.