13 years together.
5 years in a civil union.
1 day of marriage.
I actually never believed I would see this day. After all, I've known I was gay since I was in the 7th grade. Being a gay teen in Texas, marriage was for my straight friends who would marry their high school sweethearts. This gay man would have to be content sitting in the pews as a witness to others, serving in wedding parties or singing at ceremonies. Skip forward several years when I was in my early 30s, (after I had already had a few relationships in my 20s) and I met a man that changed how I viewed - well, everything. We took it slowly. Even the part of living together. And then when New Jersey allowed for civil unions, we decided to have one on 08/08/08. The closest thing we'd ever have to a marriage - but it worked for us. After all, we felt married at that point even if the rest of the world didn't view it in the same manner.
We witnessed gay friends marrying in states that allowed it and even though New York was just over a bridge, we decided not to marry in another state until it was available where we lived. And God knows New Jersey kept trying, but governor vetoes would knock it down. We had certain rights with our civil union, but there was still this sense we were not equal. We'd still have to write single on forms and as I've mentioned in other blogs - come out over and over.
And then all of a sudden a judge declares same-sex couples can marry in our state and the governor says he's no longer going to fight it and I was completely overwhelmed while reading the news. Sitting on a beautiful hill in Puerto Vallarta, reading the new on my phone that it was actually legal now in my own state - I couldn't hold back the tears. Tears because it never occurred to me I would be able to share in what so many others have. And so...there was no proposal. There was no getting down on one knee. After all we've been together for 13 years. We simply looked at each other and decided we wanted to make it legal. No big ceremony. Just paperwork. 11/12/13. At least it would be a date we'd recall just as we had picked 08/08/08 previously.
We returned from our trip to Mexico and walked up to the immigration/customs counter together in New Jersey - holding our separate declaration forms. The gentleman asked if we were married and again, I had to say "No...but we will be in two weeks." He noticed we had the same address, ripped up one declaration form and said "it's legal in this state, you only need one form." That small gesture felt so huge to me - I can't even describe it. A complete stranger recognized us as a couple and it meant more than I can even say.
For me, that's what marriage is. We are recognized. We are no longer invisible. I do not need to stumble over words describing my partner. He is my husband. He is my best friend. He is the person that makes me happiest in the whole world and like all of my straight friends and family members, I can have the same rights in my relationship that they have. And I didn't need someone else to vote to allow me to marry. But boy, it sure feels sweet that after so much time together, I feel whole with him.
Nothing changes and everything changes.
A new life begins for us...or should I say, the old life just got a little more clear.