Today’s excerpt is dedicated to two people I love dearly, who appear in my book under the pseudonyms Kelly and Gretchen. They are very important members of my family, and whenever anybody asks me why a straight middle class housewife gives a crap about marriage equality*, I mention them. In fact, Kelly took this picture of Elliott at a marriage equality rally our families attended on February 12, 2009:
I remember that rally well–I delivered a speech on behalf of Minnesota NOW that was received warmly by the less then the few dozen people who bothered to show up. Today, my friend Kelly is back at the Capitol, with THOUSANDS of ecstatic people ready to celebrate marriage equality in our state. Among those thousands are Kelly and Gretchen’s two daughters, who can’t wait to be bridesmaids in their mothers’ LEGAL Minnesota wedding.
I can’t believe it.
Kelly and I were both good American girls, born in the land of the free, rewarded with Social Security Cards and easily obtained passports. Had I fallen for a lederhosen-wearing Bavarian named Matthias Schwarz (instead of a professor’s brat born within a mile of UC-Berkeley), his road to citizenship would be assured. Kelly, on the other hand, had no such opportunity. She could not legally sponsor the citizenship of the foreign-born person she loved.
“Ugh,” Matt said, his usual eloquence failing him.
Deep in the throes of liberal guilt, I blurted, “you’re lucky, then, that you’re a white European and not a dark-looking terrorist.” Post-9/11 hysteria brought new reports daily of Muhammads and Fatimas kicked off airplanes, hijab-wearers taunted with racial slurs, rocks thrown in mosque windows. Gretchen admitted that her citizenship class had zero attendees of obviously Arab descent. The Muslim students took great pains to announce that they were Somali war refugees. Well into 2003 there was still palpable fear that al-Qaeda lurked in every (swarthy, hijab-clad) corner.
Matt returned us to the original point. “It shouldn’t be against the law to sponsor the person you love.”
Kelly shrugged. “We can’t get married,” she said simply. “If we’re not legally married, our relationship doesn’t exist.”
“But we have some domestic partner laws,” I said. “Are you able to register as partners?”
Gretchen lifted her head from her thick textbook. “We can register all day long, but it still doesn’t mean anything.” Then she returned to The New Citizen’s Guide to the Constitution.
Kelly shrugged. “I guess it would be nice to have a big party,” she said, “but it’s true that it doesn’t mean much. I still can’t give Gretchen any of my job’s benefits. I can’t even carry her on my health insurance.”
“I have to buy my own,” the student of American law announced.
I decided, after draining my Summit Extra Pale Ale too quickly, that The Happy Hetero ought to state the obvious. “That’s really expensive.”
Kelly nodded. “Yes,” she said. “Yes, it is.” At least [their son] Morgan could be added to Kelly’s coverage without any trouble; unmarried mothers, once a category as publicly shunned as homosexual couples, were wholly unexciting in the 21st century.
Gretchen passed her citizenship exam easily, returning home from her swearing-in ceremony with the gift awarded to her by the Customs Bureau, a tiny American flag stapled to a barbecue skewer. “USA! USA!” she taught Morgan to shout. He ran around the yard, chanting and waving, chased by Elliott, who shrieked that he wanted a turn. Frustrated, Elliott grabbed Morgan by his overall straps and threw him to the ground, WWF style. The home of the brave, indeed.
*though anyone who would ask me such a stupid thing deserves a kick in the crotch, not a polite answer