I have been with my (soon to be for real this time) husband for nearly 23 years.
In 1991 we had a Commitment Ceremony in Utah after our first year and a half together, when that was our only option. It was a beautiful event that was attended by my parents and Rod's teenaged children. We were married in our hearts. But we were legal strangers.
That was also the year we moved to Seattle, where I grew up and where my family still lives. A few years later in 1994, the City of Seattle began a Domestic Partnership registry. On the application were the caveats:
* We understand that the Registration of Domestic Partnership is not a marriage
* We understand that the Registration of Domestic Partnership does not afford our relationship any new or different legal status
But we felt it was a symbolic gesture, and so we became "Domestic Partners". We were married in our hearts. But we were still legal strangers.
In the year 2000 Vermont passed their Civil Unions bill. During Rod's childhood, his family had a vacation cabin in the small town of Peru, Vermont where his parents retired and where they were later buried. We had a beautiful small ceremony where again my parents attended, along with Rod's sisters and niece. The officiant was the elderly Pastor that performed the funerals for both of Rod's parents and had been a pastor at the congregational church for decades. He came out during our ceremony in talking about his long time companion. So we became "Civil Unionized" (is that really a word?). We were still married in our hearts. But since we did not live in Vermont, at home we were still legal strangers.
Then in 1998, Washington state joined the shameful path of other states and passed a state level DOMA. We were still married in our hearts. And were now even more legal strangers.
A few years later in 2004, for a very brief time Portland, Oregon performed marriages for same-sex couples, and we were Married! But since we did not live in Oregon, and Washington still had DOMA, we were still legal strangers. Later that year the marriages were invalidated by the courts. We were sent back our $60 license fee and told that we were not legally married. We were still married in our hearts. And we were still legal strangers.
Then in 2007, when a bit of sanity was restored, Governor Chris Gregoire signed the law creating a state wide Domestic Partnership for Washington State. It was limited in scope, but we were no longer complete legal strangers. And we were still married in our hearts. This was followed in 2009 by the "everything but marriage" bill which conferred all of the rights, privileges and responsibilities of marriage. Just not the name. So were were no longer legal strangers. We were still married only in our hearts.
We had talked about going to California or Canada to get married (again), but I said I was done marriage shopping. Until I could do it where I lived, I was done feeling like a beggar and a less than.
And today we are one giant step closer to that reality. Thank you to our Governor Chris Gregoire, Senator Ed Murray, and Representative Jaime Peterson we now have true marriage in Washington state law. And while there will be challenges before the marriages can begin, there is no question that we will get married. It is now just a matter of when. And regardless if the people with more hate than sense prevail again this year, it will happen in time.
And until then, we are still married in our hearts. And nothing that Maggie Gallagher and her ilk does can change that.
Updated: Thank you for the comments. I wrote this as a reaction to watching the bill signing and felt just a little closer to the reality of marrying the man I have loved for so many years. Happy Valentines Day.