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Post-election reflection

December 6, 2012

Today they started marrying people in Washington.  Maine and Maryland will open their court houses in the next few weeks.  I must admit that I still feel a little bit dumbstruck.

My wife and I married in 2003, in Canada, before the US really entered into the business.  At the time our options were limited.  There had been that crazy couple of weeks in San Francisco.  Massachusetts was busy trying to squirm out of their court’s ruling.  And while Vermont had been issuing toothless civil union certificates for a while, we wanted to be married.  We’ve been happy with our boring Canadian marriage.  Aside from a short eight hours a year and a half ago following a statement from a misguided Canadian politician, our northern neighbors haven’t fought much or changed their minds.  The rhetoric surrounding the struggle for marriage recognition is hateful and heated and, even if it is in a far away state, feels very personal.  To chose to have our relationship recognized in a place where those attacks may be successful?  On our actual personal marriage certificate?  No thanks.

Election night in 2004 was a bad night for us.  Recently married, we were at a little dive bar a few block from home.  The mood was subdued as state after state showed up red and it became obvious early that Bush was going to win.  We left early, not up to even the atmosphere of people making the best of it with the dollar pitchers.  11 states banned gay marriage that night, most by super-majorities.  It hit too close to home.

Election night 2008 was a different sort of beast.  As the results came in, we could hear celebrations though the windows of our apartment as our baby slept in the back room.  People ran down the streets, cheering in crowds and hugging each other.  But three more states had banned marriage – including the bitterly fought Prop 8 in California, particularly terrible because unlike other bans that were banning things that were already banned, the people were voting to take away something people already had.  I was surprised by how much it hurt, which was rendered more poignant in contrast with the celebratory atmosphere.

This past big election was a little different than the last two.  Yes, marriage was on the ballot, again.  Only this time, the propositions were to legalize marriage, not ban it.  And this time, for the first time, a majority of people voted FOR marriage.  I still feel a little dazed.  But the results are the results and today there are pictures of couple after couple after couple at the city hall in Seattle, holding marriage certificates and wearing huge smiles.  It’s personal this time too, but in a good way.

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