In two weeks, I’m getting married. Well, that’s what we’re calling it. Technically, my girlfriend of nearly five years and I are entering a civil union. But, what’s the verb that goes along with that? We’re civil unioning? Civil unionizing?
Here in Illinois, we can get a civil union license, and it will allow us to have all the legal protections and obligations that straight couples get when they get a marriage license. Don’t get me started, though, on how we’ll still be legal strangers in the eyes of the federal government because of a law called DOMA.
More importantly, in two weeks, I’m marrying the woman I love. I can’t wait to stand before our families and our friends and vow to be loving and kind to one another. I can’t wait for our families and friends to make witness our vows and commit to us as a couple – to stand by us, to support us, to love us. That doesn’t sound like a civil union to me. That sounds like a wedding, like a marriage, doesn’t it?
My journey to this day has been long and twisting. Just before I graduated from high school in Modesto, California, Californians passed Prop 22, a measure defining marriage as between a man and a woman (this is the same ballot measure that was found unconstitutional in 2008 by the California Supreme Court, which started the “Great Prop 8” adventure). My college graduation in Massachusetts was the weekend after that state became the first in the U.S. to extend the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples. I lived in Michigan in 2004, where voters passed a constitutional amendment banning marriage for gay and lesbian couples or any other kind of recognition, like civil unions or domestic partnerships. I moved back to California just as gay and lesbian couples started to legally marry in June 2008, and then I marched in protest after the passage of Prop 8 in 2008, and I have dedicated my career to changing laws and public opinion to advance LGBT equality. Just last year I watched as the governor of Illinois signed civil union legislation, and in two weeks, I will put on a wedding dress, a garter with buttons from my great-great-grandmother’s wedding dress, and I will get married (or civilly unioned). Wow.