I have to say, I never thought it would happen. After more than thirty-three years of living together, my partner – well, now my husband — and I have gotten married. For a long time, while the Supreme Court deliberated about DOMA and Prop. 8, we too were thinking things over. Neither of us has ever been all that enamored with the idea of traditional marriage. We’ve both seen enough marriages fail over the years. Still, when it finally came down to our making an actual decision, the outcome was clear enough: the federal benefits outweighed any other reservations we may have had.
Once that decision was made, then came the particulars of it all. We knew from the get-go that we didn’t want a fuss made. Our friends and relatives were hinting that they might maybe want to make an occasion out of this. But that’s not how we saw things. Keep it simple, we thought, just the two of us; after all, we had for decades already considered ourselves married, at least in essence.
And so we made the trek over to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office, located some twenty miles away from us in the city of Norwalk. Now, I have nothing at all against Norwalk. It was in fact the first time either of us had ever set foot in the city. But we wondered what kind of a reception a middle-aged, Anglo same-sex couple might expect when they presented themselves to get married there.
We weren’t actually nervous. It was probably more what might best be described as a state of heightened awareness. The first thing we noticed upon finding out where to go in the county complex was how few people there were in line. Somehow, I’d imagined dozens of fidgeting couples. As it turned out, there were exactly four people ahead of us, two middle-aged lesbians, and a very young, straight Asian couple. The latter were so young looking to me, in fact, that in a moment of only half-conscious, avuncular concern I almost asked them if they’d really thought through this momentous decision. Fortunately, in the end, I kept my unasked for advice to myself.
I offered a friendly hello to all of them. The Asian couple, or at least the groom-to-be, gave a shy greeting in return. One of the lesbians smiled at us and said a quick “Congrats!” I bowed slightly, smiling, and replied: “And to you, too.” Several other couples, all heterosexual, soon took their place behind us. No one seemed even to notice us. Appropriately enough, I thought, each person in each couple seemed intent on his or her partner. And when we got up to the window, a very friendly Asian woman took us through our paces, clicking boxes on her computer with flair. Not only was she efficient, she was friendly and jocular: “Dress up, dress down, rings, no rings, doesn’t matter!”
So, that was that: no problems, no dirty looks, no questioning glances, no nothing, if I can use the double negative positively. We walked away, marriage license application in hand, with an appointment for the following week to do the deed itself.
When we returned a week later, we were first in line for a wedding ceremony. It’s a question of sliding the proper paperwork under the correct window, getting checked in, and then waiting until we were called into the chapel. Now, I was the one fidgeting. I could not believe how much all this was affecting me. All along, I’d thought of it as perfunctory, but now sitting there waiting, I realized it somehow actually meant something to me. Stupidly, the words from that old song about going to the chapel and going to get married kept running through my head.
A distinguished looking Latino gentleman in a black robe, a retired judge, I think, called us in. The chapel was decorated with a kind of faux arbor, an arch covered in artificial flowers, where we were asked to stand. The County of Los Angeles graciously provided a witness ($18 please), and the judge told us to face each other and hold hands. I was near tears all through the brief ceremony, wherein we were admonished “to covet one another to the exclusion of all others.”
Afterwards, on the way to the car, I actually did start crying, to the amazement, I think, of my new husband. But, knowing like no one else my sentimental side, he smiled indulgently. I kept thinking, why am I crying? Could it be because, by rights, we ought to have been able to marry more than thirty years ago and by now be celebrating our thirty-something-eth wedding anniversary, instead of walking out as newlyweds? Or was it due to the simple notion that we were just now, finally, recognized by the state as a married couple?
I dried my tears as we got into the car, and we kissed. I do, in fact, covet him above all others. The judge needn’t have told me. But in the end I was glad that he did, and I was proud and moved to reply, quickly and without hesitation, “Yes, I do.” Anyway, it’s over and done with, and I will say I’ve gotten used to it rather quickly. Even so, when I suddenly think of myself as “a married man,” it does still strike me as really something.