In the summer of 2008, a month or so after the California Supreme Court had legalized same-sex marriage, my best friend from high school and I took a trip to San Francisco. We spent the whole day carousing around the Castro and giggling at the sea lions, and as we passed City Hall she grabbed my hand.
"Hey baby," she said, nudging me. "Wanna get married?"
"Obviously," I said, grinning at her. This was a friend who'd written an op-ed for the school paper four years earlier about how marriage was meant to be between a man and a woman, from whom I'd hid my sexuality for years because I was afraid she would reject me.
I wasn't politically savvy. I didn't know the history of the struggle for marriage equality in California. I was just young and dumb and silly and sun-drunk and willing to entertain the idea of making a stupid decision just because I loved how far my friend and I had come together.
We didn't end up going to City Hall, clearly. On that day in July, though, having her sling an arm around my shoulder and casually suggest we go make our parents furious like any other pair of teenagers, made it feel like anything was possible, like the world had come around to us without us even trying.
Today feels kind of like that.
I mean, you know what happened in 2008. By November, I'd be crying down the phone to my mom as she consoled me that "People like Grandma will die soon, and then everyone will be allowed to get married." I'd watch as Prop 8 got overturned in 2010, and then moved its way up to the circuit court and then then the federal level. A handful of states would pass marriage equality, it'd be challenged, they'd maintain it, it'd be challenged again -- you know the drill. "Another two years," I kept hearing. "Another four years. The next election cycle, the next big push."
And this morning, five strangers whom I've never met and who will likely never meet me decided that the right to enjoy the economic security of marriage constitutes equal federal protection under the law. My rights and the rights of my friends, which shouldn't have even been up for a vote in the first place, are intact.
The real kick in the pants is that I don't even want to get married. I'm not one of those couples waiting on a green card or paying out the nose for taxes or unable to hold my dying wife's hand in the hospital. Marriage equality has basically zero impact on my life on a personal level, at least in the short term. But I still feel fucking incandescent. Like, crying on public transit, blasting Scissor Sisters, kissing fellow commuters on the mouth incandescent.
Naturally, things are still pretty complicated. Because the Supreme Court elected to strike down DOMA and pass on ruling on Prop 8, same-sex marriage is back to being legal in California but still illegal in most other states. So if you get married in New York but decide to move to Indiana, your partnership will still be invalid. Experts think that this will, however, make the whole "chipping away at a solid wall of bigotry" exercise go a hell of a lot faster.
Look, I know marriage isn't the only thing that matters. This is a good time to remind everyone that you can be fired for your sexual orientation or gender identity in 33 states. It's also a great time to call out that trans people and queer people of color are way more likely to be victims of hate crimes than their white, cis counterparts. Queer kids are bullied and queer kids are homeless and queer kids are dying, and I get that we can't distill all our rights or the entire movement down to whether or not we enjoy equal federal protection to get hitched under the law. We saw as recently as yesterday how willing the Supreme Court is to toss people's rights under the bus. Marriage equality is a tiny, tiny step on a road I can't even see the end of.
But if you view marriage as a business contract, in California, I am no longer a second-class economic citizen. If you view marriage as a declaration of love, I am no longer a rotten-hearted deviant in my home state.
It's not like this is an invitation to pack it all in and go home. 31 states still have specific constitutional restrictions limiting marriage to one man and one woman. The fight is not over. The fight is barely beginning.
And man, am I more ready than ever to take up the cause. WHO WANTS TO GET MARRIED?!
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