Today, Judge Vaughn Walker overturned California's Proposition 8 today, the proposition that declared that the only marriages recognized in the state of California would be those between a man an a woman, also invalidating the 18,000 marriages that had been performed in the state between two men or two women.
My relationship with marriage equality/gay marriage/whatever I'm supposed to call it now is complicated. A few years ago, was the coordinator of a political coalition in my area that fought for many political and social equalities from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) folks. As often happens with those kinds of coalitions, one of the major issues that members were focusing on was marriage equality. Part of that came about because two of the plaintiff's in the 2006 suit to challenge Washington State's "Defense" of Marriage Act were on my coalition.
In March 2006, their challenge failed. And I held a rally that allowed people to express their disappointment and their rage, despite the City of Spokane refusing to issue us a permit and having no location for the rally. And people were upset - they felt marginalized, like their lives were lesser than others. And that was awful to watch.
But it was also strange to have people assume that I shared their rage and their pain. While I could see it, while I could sympathize with it, I didn't. I don't.
I want marriage equality because I realize that there is a gay man out there right now who is being refused access to his partner in the ER. I want marriage equality for the two women who are terrified that one of them will die of cancer and the other will have no legal relationship to their children. I want marriage equality so that my friends don't have to leave the country because they can't marry their foreign national partners and help them get green cards, so they don't have to pay millions of dollars more over their lifetimes to have the same lives, so they don't have sheafs of make-shift legal paperwork to give themselves the pretense of equal rights.
I want those things and I know that access to the legal institution of marriage in the US is the most expedient way to those goals.
But what I really want? Is for the institution of marriage to have no legal meaning at all. For people to be able to determine their own medical authorities, those who will receive their social security (for as long as it lasts), those who parent with them, those who they share finances with, those who can visit them in the ER. I want to take away the legal rights associated with marriage and divorce that from the social institution.
Because I don't actually know that the state has any business in my personal life, let alone my sex life. And don't forget - as long as a marriage isn't consummated, it can still be annulled in the US. Legally, if you don't screw, the marriage didn't happen.
I want the government out of my bed and out of my pants and out of everyone else's, as well. It's illogical to continue a legal institution that doesn't serve a benefit to the country as a whole and, frankly, is kind of creepy in the way its implemented. And this is not in spite of the relationships and marriages that people I respect have, but because of them. I want those relationships to have more meaning than legal chattel.
But that's a long-shot goal. That's something that won't happen for a long time, if ever.
So I remain cautiously happy at Judge Walker's decision. Not because I want to marry, but because if anyone can, we all should be able to.
Krista Benson is a 30-year old living in Eastern Washington State. She is, at times, a career advisor, a group facilitation consultant, an academic, and an activist.
She lives in Spokane, WA and has had some pretty major life changes. She is still figuring out what that means, sometimes while writing in the 3rd person.