When I was a kid, my second-wave feminist mom who didn’t shave her legs used to tell me, “Whoever you end up marrying—boy or girl—will be so lucky.” I was not a born-this-way no-brainer kind of gay kid. I was known to use eyeliner to draw on a mustache when playing pretend, and I did wear leggings and cut my hair boy-short, but it was the ’90s, so.
Turns out my mom was on to something. Last spring, my girlfriend proposed. No getting down on one knee, but a lovely little ring, placed on the breakfast table on a Paris balcony.
It meant a lot to us that we could legally marry in D.C., where we live. But there were all kinds of rights we were cut out from. I was marrying a Canadian whose visa is tied to her job. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, I couldn’t sponsor her for a green card. If she were to lose her job, she’d have to go back to Canada, and I’d be left behind. There was the tax issue—we’d be no more than buddies in the eyes of the IRS. With venues, we had to stick to the District since Virginia wouldn’t allow us to marry there (luckily, Maryland had OKed gay marriages a few months prior, opening up all sorts of places where we could tie the knot). And—we discovered—finding an officiant was going to be a headache. We didn’t want a religious ceremony or a courthouse wedding, which meant we needed to find a real judge, since D.C. didn’t allow for a “judge-for-a-day” certification like lots of other places do.
But sometimes the arc of justice is short. Weeks later, DOMA was struck down—suddenly, I could sponsor her for a green card and we could file our taxes jointly. And in August, the D.C. Council passed a marriage celebrant law making it much easier to find someone to officiate.
Of course, there are plenty of legal wrinkles yet to be ironed out. Even as a married couple, if one of us got sick or hurt in Virginia, we might be blocked from visiting each other in the hospital without power of attorney. If one of us gives birth to a kid, the other one would have to do a second parent adoption. Surrogacy is still illegal in D.C., so if two fellows want to have a baby in the District, that option is out. And if my spouse and I wanted to adopt in Virginia, only one of us would be allowed to do so, since only married couples can adopt in the state, and in the eyes of the law there, we’re not married at all.
In the end, we got married with a handful of friends and family in our living room in Bloomingdale and went to Restaurant Nora afterward. Everyone we worked with—from the florist, to the judge who married us, to our wonderful photographer—was gracious and welcoming and awesome. Only the juice guy at Union Market gave us a hard time. (You run a juice shop! At Union Market!)
We kept things small, in part because my father-in-law has dementia and gets confused when there’s too much going on. Thankfully, he was able to come, and knew exactly what was happening (the wedding dress helped). He was completely unfazed to see his daughter in a suit marrying a woman.
But he was concerned that she wasn’t wearing a tie. He offered to lend her his.