One woman's wait — and drive — for equality
I remember the day Vermont legalized Civil Unions for same-sex couples. I was in college at the time and I remember thinking out loud that I could move there and get "Civil Union-ed" someday. It didn't sound the same as my previous dreams of getting "Married." When the arguments were made in Maine that domestic partnership could confer the same benefits as married couples, allowing civil marriage to continue to be discriminatory, I realized again that no other word in our society holds the same meaning as marriage, nor does any other similar institution hold the same privileges. If this were all just an argument in semantics, I doubt two different groups would be gearing up for the fight at the ballot boxes this November.
My partner and I want to get married. We want to legally commit our lives to each other — with all the rights and responsibilities that come with our signatures on that document. We want to share assets easily, like the condo we just began bidding on in our Parkside neighborhood. We want to legally co-parent our future children, but perhaps we'll start by co-parenting a puppy, if we can agree on a breed and a joint plan for discipline. We want to be responsible for each other's legal and medical wishes should one of us get sick and end up in the hospital. Thankfully, this is less likely to happen in the near future now that my partner has quit smoking. We want to be able to say to our families and friends "we're getting married, please be a part of our wedding" and have them nod with understanding, not guess as to whether our commitment ceremony will be "real" or not.
We sat through the entire 14 hours of the public hearing for LD 1020, the bill that passed and was signed into law, ending discrimination in civil marriage. We heard all the stories: among them the person who did not have legal rights to her home after her partner passed away; the parent who spoke about not being able to make decisions about her children, whom she did not have legal custody of; and the loving partner who was kept from a hospital room while the love of his life was barely holding on. When the hearing took a break for dinner, I went out to the parking lot of the Augusta Civic Center and angrily told the woman I love that we were not going to waste our money on legal documents, expensive adoption proceedings, and powers of attorney if none of it mattered anyway. She reminded me that couples just like us have been doing these things for decades, making plans in place of signing a marriage license. Truthfully, it is incredible to think that at ages 28 and 29, we are on the brink of being able to begin our lives together with a legal civil marriage.
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