1,049. There are exactly 1,049 reasons why I was legally married on June 12, 2014. After living with, loving with, and growing a life with my significant other since June 12, 1993, our bond of love was sealed in the eyes of the law last week, as this dog mom wed the love of her life.
I recall reading one of the very first published books on gay marriage, the aptly titled, Why You Should Give a Damn About Gay Marriage, by Davina Kotulski, Ph.D, in 2007. Based on the title, Kotulski, it can be said, wrote the book of love—with all of its legalities and government interference.
In her book, I learned that there are 1,049 federal rights awarded to straight people when they marry that are denied to gay and lesbian couples.
“If you believe in equality, justice, and fairness, then you believe in equality and justice for everyone, not just some citizens,” Kotulski told me when I interviewed her for Curve magazine in 2007.
In 1993, my partner and I wished to express our love and exchange vows. The law would not allow us to do so at the time, so we engaged in a “civil union.”
Do you know how unromantic it is to ask someone to “civil union” you? According to Merriam Webster a civil union is, “a legal relationship between two people of the same sex that gives them some of the same rights and responsibilities that married people have.”
Um, no, not in Pennsylvania, not then, and certainly not up until May 20, 2014. How many of these statements do you think are true as they apply to same-sex couples in the United States?
- A gay couple pays extra to allow both to drive the car they rent on vacation, whereas a straight married couple pays for one driver and the spouse is included free;
- Straight married people get cheaper rates on car insurance than gay and lesbian committed couples;
- Gay and lesbian couples can still be discriminated against in housing and business in most of the US;
- Even when gay and lesbian couples do receive “spousal benefits” equal to those of straight people they have to pay extra taxes on them (they are “imputed income”);
All of the above are true. If you live in a state where same sex marriage is not recognized, all of the above are true!!!
There’s a Catch
I can still be fired for being gay in the state of Pennsylvania because the Pennsylvania legislature will not bring the Non-Discrimination Act to a vote. Pennsylvania does not have enough bipartisan support.
I can be refused housing, too. I can walk into a public library and be told to leave because I am gay. Even with my marriage license in tow. I live in the only state in the northeast that allows marriage on a Sunday and firing on a Monday. It is called House Bill 300, and its companion bill is Senate Bill 300.
Since June 12, 2014, I am legally married in the state of Pennsylvania and I am working towards securing more of those 1,049 legal rights that straight married couples enjoy.
Why Should You Give a Damn?
I’m a dog mom. I love dogs to the very core of my being. My heart beats dog so very much that I trademarked the slogan. It’s a really lousy feeling to live in a visible closet. Re-read that sentence: I didn’t say an invisible closet, but a visible one.
My wife is a dog mom. She was a teacher, a principal, a teacher in space candidate, and seeing her live in a visible closet for 21 years is a pretty lousy realization.
For those of you married folks reading this, if you could go back to the day you said “yes” to your now spouse, and perhaps do it all over again….would you? How many people would say “yes,” I will marry you again, all these years later because I am so madly, deeply in love with you that life without you is not living at all.
After 21 years together as a couple, I was asked if I would marry my significant other finally, for real, legally, and I said YES! I am even more in love with her today than I was all those years ago when she swept me off my feet….and once again on June 12, 2014, she soared from the skies and did it again.
Do you love romantic stories of proposals and two people truly in love? Read on. Oh, and yes, there’s a dog involved.
Love is In the Air
I’ve always wanted a “sweep me off my feet” wedding romance story to bestow itself upon my doorstep. I never thought I’d live long enough to have my relationship legally recognized.
If you want the back story, I formally “came out” for a variety of reasons, but mainly to live truer to myself, my readers, and as a human being in general. You can read my coming out story here.
Our dog, Dexter, was scheduled to have ACL (leg) surgery on Friday, June 13, 2014. So when Darlene informed me that she scheduled a “photo shoot” for us to start a memory book, it struck me as odd. I say odd because she had the date of the shoot for the night before Dexter’s surgery. Granted, June 12th is our anniversary date as a couple, and why of all times did she want to start a photo memory book?
“I want to preserve the year of planning for our big wedding in 2015,” she mused.
Okie dokie. I’ll go along with it.
“Um, what should I wear, honey, and um, oh you realize the dog is limping, right?”
“Something business casual and yes, but he will be okay, I will make sure,” she reassured me.
Flying High and Standing Low
So there we stood, my life partner (ack, hate that but that’s what the law dubbed us at the time), me, and our limping dog, in the middle of a park. A park located near a small airport where folks go to learn how to fly small planes. We like going there and we have walked our past and present dogs at this field. We love watching the small planes take off, learning, following them along, and one day knowing they got better and are soaring along.
I even named one of the planes “Flips” because whenever the pilot sees us, he grandstands and does these fancy sky maneuvers involving, well, flips.
So as the clouds rolled in and the weather app threatened lightning, I asked where and when the photographer would be located.
And then I saw Flips.
And my heart skipped a beat.
Flips took to the sky and these 7 foot tall letters tagged along:
It is revealed that I said “oh my god” at least 50 times in the first five minutes of this sky proposal, and then I felt a sense of shock, disbelief, and eventually the most calming feeling I have experienced in my entire life. I sat under the pavilion with my almost wife, my limping dog, and two of our friends who were “in on the secret” and watched the reality of my life unfold.
I am blessed, I thought. This is how love goes. True, romantic, real, passionate, consenting adults expressing their love together: this is how love goes. It is amazing the sense of peace that came over me. And that peace has remained with me ever since.
So after the plane ride, our friends snapping pictures, and my sense of peace remaining, a limousine pulls up. Yep, the woman has class and is oh so romantic. See?
Our friends handled taking the cars home while the limo followed behind. Together, the five of us sauntered into the limo and I kept shaking my head. There was, of course, time for a group selfie or two.
Then came the flowers with this note attached:
If I wasn’t a puddle of goo by then, I was now.
The limo ride didn’t last long, as we pulled up to a lovely house about 10 minutes from our residence. A group of women and kids gathered on a porch across the street and waved to us. Um okayyyyy. I have no clue at this point.
A lovely minister stood at the back of the house, as the five of us walked around to meet her. Flips asked, I said yes, and so Darlene wasted no time in making magic happen.
Here we are in the midst of our vows. It was short, romantic, sweet, and tear inducing. I felt like someone took all of my breath away, from my lungs, and like the words were somehow floating on air. Yes, I was saying them, but I felt as if I stepped away from myself and was watching the whole experience as someone else. Like I was living a movie….in real time, in real life.
We already exchanged vows in our civil union all those years ago; why, over two decades ago. So the diamond ring was sealed with a diamond band.
On the way out to the limo after the vows and photos, the women and kids on the porch across the street stood for us and clapped and wished us well. It started to rain, which was called for all day. Yet it held off until that moment when everything was complete.
“The rain,” one of the smiling, clapping ladies across the street yelled over, “It’s God’s blessing!”
I joined in with some tears falling. We rode around in the limousine for almost two hours, toasting, celebrating, exhaling, and sharing what I thought I’d go to my grave and never be able to see: A marriage license with our names on it.
Since our dog faced surgery in the morning and rain was in the air, I am told plans were slightly altered. The limo pulled up in front of a local fancy restaurant and my wife exited with our friends. They returned with what turned out to be a gourmet meal of lobster and more.
Yes, I was and still remain, speechless in sharing this tale of love.
So next year we will do a bigger, more formal dream wedding with our friends and loved ones. Yes, it will be totally pet friendly and we wouldn’t have it any other way. But for now, I am proof that dreams can come true, at least for over 1,000 rights. I dream and advocate for total equality and the banishing of discrimination for consenting adults who are same in sex and same in their love for each other.
What does this have to do with dogs and sharing life with a dog? There is a very large contingency of LGBT dog moms and dads in this world who share their lives with a dog(s). I happen to be one of them. For 21 years, I’ve kept quiet about me and some of the most fantastic things that have happened in my life. If I am to be true to the “reality” in this blog’s title, there you have it: Tale as old as time with a modern twist.
Exhaling feels pretty damn good these days.