Thursday, October 24, 2013

To be married

One week from today, Nigel and I will be married. It was a long time waiting, a lifetime, really. Now that marriage equality is here, and we have the same options as anyone else, I think it was worth the wait.

I’ve written previously about how getting married to a man was something that I grew up assuming would always be impossible. Then, a couple months ago, the day after marriage equality became law in New Zealand, I wrote about what the new reality meant for me.

Just under eighteen years ago, I arrived in New Zealand to stay, and to build a life with the love of my life, Nigel. When Civil Unions came into being in 2005, we thought we’d eventually get one, but didn’t actually do so until January of 2009. The delay wasn’t intentional—busy lives and all that—but I think a part of me secretly hoped New Zealand would go ahead an enact marriage equality.

Even so, I think it’s safe to say that when we had our Civil Union ceremony, we didn’t think that marriage equality would arrive so soon afterward; we knew it was inevitable, sure, but that fast? When the bill was passed, I wrote about a number of factors that I think made it all happen, and they partly account for the speed.

Nevertheless, it was an unexpected turn of events that led to LGBT people becoming fully equal under the marriage act, having exactly the same options that opposite gender couples have. And that, for me, is the ultimate point in all this: We are now equal.

Civil unions were, in most respects, equivalent to marriage—but they were not marriage. LGBT people were forbidden to marry and that, for me, reduced the value of civil unions. It also felt like we were being told to put up with something that was the best we could expect, that we weren’t good enough for marriage.

Paradoxically, I now think that since everyone has the same options for legal recognition of their relationship, it raises the value of civil unions—for those who choose them. But the reality is, everyone knows what marriage is and what that commitment means. But, civil unions? It’s like the protest signs often say: No one ever said to the love of their life, “will you civil union me?”

Free and equal citizens must have free and equal options, and now we do. Some will choose de facto status, some will choose civil unions and some will choose marriage. We chose marriage because for us it has meaning, and the fact that we grew up never expecting to be able to marry makes the fact that we now can all the more meaningful.

When I talk about the struggle for the civil and human rights of LGBT people, I often talk about all those people, known and unknown, who cleared the way for the rest of us. So, I think of them, especially those who didn’t live to see marriage equality arrive, and I feel a particular determination to grab hold of the equality that’s now before us.

Sometimes, becoming equal is surprisingly simple. Sometimes, all it takes is saying “I do”.

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