When my husband and I applied for a marriage license at the D.C. Marriage Bureau last month, we knew that we were not going to have a big party. We had pretty much decided that it was just going to be just the two of us and whoever officiates at our civil ceremony. We didn’t even decide on what we were wearing until the morning of our appointment.
After all, we have been together for more than 11 years — and for all intents and purposes had considered ourselves as committed as the next married couple. Besides, there were costs that we had no interest in incurring. And we knew full well that though we would be protected within Washington, D.C., our married status would not mean much at the federal level.
We would still feel the need to carry our wills and health care proxies when visiting my in-laws in North Carolina. More importantly, as a bi-national couple, we would not gain the immigration privileges automatically bestowed upon opposite-sex couples that get married at church, city hall or Las Vegas. My husband would not be able to sponsor me for a green card even though we have been together for over a decade, pay taxes and do our share for our community.
Yesterday was not going to be a big deal. We were going down to D.C. Superior Court, stand in front of a city employee, go through a script and make our relationship official in the District.
But to our surprise, it was a big deal. My husband didn’t sleep much the night before and walking to the Moultrie Courthouse, I did my best to temper my enthusiasm. During the marriage service, we were giddy as we articulated what until then had been a tacit agreement — that we would be wedded spouses, “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”
The reaction from our families and friends has been overwhelming. Unlike the awkward silence that followed my announcement seven years ago that John and I had become domestic partners in New York, my mom this time around joyfully congratulated us when I told her about our plans. My brother in law — who had at one time said he didn’t understand “what the big deal is” around marriage equality — called to express how happy he was for us. Messages continue to stream in through Facebook.
Although we both thought that the officiant was being hokey when he warned us that we would be transformed, he was right. Our union might not be recognized by the United States government and it might be frowned upon by some people but guess what? We are married. And no one can ever take that away from us.
You can follow Erwin on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon.