Put this one in the category of signs of change, or maybe amazing things happening in unlikely places.
It started at Costco on Tuesday. James and I usually go through the self-serve checkout, but they were all busy and there was a full-serve line open, so we indulged ourselves. The checker, Denise, and her assistant, Angela, made the usual small talk. Then, I asked my husband whether he was paying or I was. Denise laughed, saying, "I always have the same discussion with my spouse." And we kept going, as if nothing unusual had happened.
On Wednesday, our dog become ill, and by evening it seemed clear that we needed to do something sooner rather than later, so we took her to the emergency vet (since it was past our regular vet's hours). At one point, while waiting for something to process, James went out to the parking lot for a few minutes while I stayed inside with the dog. The technician was in the room with me, chatting, when the bell rang to indicate that someone was at the door. As she headed to answer, she said, "That's probably your husband wanting to come back inside."
The extraordinary thing, of course, is that both of these individuals, with no prior knowledge of us and no prompting, not only presumed that our relationship was exactly what it appeared but made reference to it as though it's no big deal.
And that's a big deal.
My husband and I were married in 2003, in Windsor, Ontario, the summer same-sex marriage was legalized there. We had planned a trip to Michigan to visit my family, so it wasn't too much of a side trip (though we do insist we had the family's first "destination wedding"). The guests were few but enthusiastic, none more so than the Superior Court justice who was presiding over his first such ceremony.
After that trip, we returned to our home in metro Atlanta, where of course our marriage has no legal force. And indeed, for the past ten years, we haven't tried to make a big deal of it, given where we live. No one outside of family and close friends has ever referred to our marriage.
We live in a state that's about as socially conservative as they come. For thirteen years I worked for a man who, while friendly enough and personally supportive when James had some health issues several years ago, always referred to him as my "friend". The one year my (former) employer offered domestic partner benefits, I had to produce multiple forms of proof of our relationship -- and had to push to have our marriage certificate accepted as one of those proofs. When we got supplementary insurance (from a well-known supplementary insurance company) they were more than happy to write policies for us both, but our marriage certificate was not accepted as one of the multiple proofs of our relationship. And so on, and so on.
Fast forward to July 2013.
Two complete strangers refer to us, quite casually, as a couple. Using terminology reserved for married folk.
Is it happenstance that this came close on the heels of the Proposition 8 and DOMA decisions at the Supreme Court? It seems likely that there's some connection, if only that those cases kept marriage equality in people's minds, and encouraged them to think of same-sex couples as, well, just couples.
Does it mean that Georgia is on the brink of social upheaval, and will soon challenge California as a hotbed of liberalism? Not likely -- though I'd love to see it happen.
I don't want to read too much into these two isolated incidents. Yes, they're the first two times in a decade that anyone in our state of residence has assumed that we're married, and has treated that assumption as nothing out of the ordinary. But it could be years again before the third instance.
Still, something extraordinary happened last week. Twice. And that's worth noting.