Tuesday, January 28, 2014

On the Subject of Marriage Equality...

On the Subject of Marriage Equality…

So with a whole mess of states, 18 states to be exact, now in the column for marriage equality, I felt I had to speak my piece on why said equality is so important to this single girl.

I wasn’t always single. Back in 1997, I met a girl and we fell in love. We did all the “regular” relationship things: dating, meeting each other’s families, moving in together. We even bought a nice little townhouse and then planned a wedding in Georgia (where same-sex marriage wasn’t recognized and still isn’t).

My family attended but my partner’s brother was the only one on her side to come. Her parents response to the invite was that they would no more come to our wedding than take their daughter for an abortion.

Yep, they sure did say that. (In their defense, they did better as time passed.)

We “legalized” the ceremony a few months later, traveling to Burlington, Vt., with our best friends for a Civil Union. That was back in 2000; it was still a little controversial, even up there. Hence, “civil union.” The state legislature had voted to allow it, but it had to be a little different. I guess the thought was we were a little different, so there you go.

So, now we’re happily married and it’s time to add to our family. We started planning for that and after a year of trying we welcomed our baby girl. Yahoo!  I couldn’t have been more excited. Then came the process of having our baby adopted by my partner and trying to “protect” our family, which for us meant to have the same rights as a straight, married couple.

During the pregnancy and after the birth of my daughter, we did a lot of paperwork. I mean A LOT! Like, really, you have no idea. Straight couples don’t have to do any of this. We hired an attorney to draft medical powers of attorney for both my partner and myself; she even came to the hospital for a medical power of attorney for our new baby girl and my partner.

After all I shouldn’t be the only one permitted to take her to a doctor’s appointment. See, if we were “married” (with the same rights as a male-female couple) we’d automatically have these rights.  Medical and financial powers of attorney are unnecessary.  Oh, wait, we also had to put wills in place in case anything happened to either of us so that our daughter was protected.

But wait, it gets better.

We wanted to have the same last name, too, and so came the legal last name changes. We chose to take a new name that was significant for us and it was part of a legal game as well. If we changed our names separately and filed that way, we could get a chance at a judge who would grant us a second-parent adoption in Georgia. We lucked out with the first name change and got the right judge and filed everything related. But that’s three different cases if you’re counting. My last name change, her last name change and our second-parent adoption.

Oh, and BECAUSE it’s an adoption we may actually have to have a home visit. For our own child. Yes, remember we had this child together. Willingly. We lucked out with our judge on that one, but others are not so lucky. And yes, some of the judges would grant second-parent adoptions, but not all of them in the same county. Really!

Over the following years, I logged what seemed like hours scratching out “father” on the paperwork I filled out for my daughter and tried to answer the questions that inevitably came when someone asked about our family. I did quite a bit of educating in those years. I still do.

Fast-forward 12 years. My partner and I decide that it’s time to end our relationship. Living in a state that did not recognize our civil union, we didn’t know what to do. But we had a daughter. And her adoption was filed in that state. Therefore they would handle the custody. It was a case that the county we lived in had never dealt with. Custody was the only thing they could do for us.

A year or so later my daughter asked to change her last name back to my maiden name, so we did. This sparked a need for two more court cases. Had our marriage been legal, that could have been handled within a divorce all at once.

So here I sit. Another four years have passed. I still haven’t dissolved that civil union from up in Vermont. When I first looked you had to have residency in the state of Vermont for six months or a year. 

I live in Florida. My ex lives in South Carolina. Neither are among the 18 states that recognize gay marriage. I have heard of and read stories that people are being called polygamists for getting married again with undissolved civil unions. Me, a polygamist??? Heck, no. I’ll never let that happen. (Then again, I’d have to have a prospect to marry….)

Anyhow, I recently took up the torch again regarding the dissolution of the Vermont civil union as the residency requirement was changed in 2012. But get this: you can’t do it if you have a child from that relationship! Really?!?!? I made a few calls and we were told to “try” to put the paperwork through and see what the judge says. Without this my ex can take or “claim” that we are still in this together. And if something happens to me… well, I don’t even want to think about that scenario.

And that’s where I am. (If I can find the paperwork, that is.)

So why is gay marriage so near and dear to this single girl?

Because these dang hurdles are insane! We are creating more of a mess with only some places that recognize gay marriage, some places that allow gay couples to adopt. Come on, America. Even the IRS recognizes it now! What a mess. I’m sure I’ve paid more in legal fees than I did on the wedding. It shouldn’t be that way.

Besides, who knows? Maybe one day this girl will meet the right girl, fall in love and want to get married again. One day.


4 comments:

  1. Wow Jen...that is INSANE. No one knows just how hard it all is unless you are in that position, and the heterosexuals of the world never have to know, so it is important for people to educate us and bring us into the loop. Your personal story is so important to tell. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Right! It's all a little insane to say the least.

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  2. I debated sharing this. This is the ex.... But It's not just about me. It explains why marriage equality is so important for everyone. It is a story of which we share, not just the two of us but thousands.. So many people have no idea what we go through, to be recognized legally, not morally, as a family. It is not about your morals, it is about my rights, our rights, as citizens of a county that claims to be "the land of the free". And I thank her for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for the share. It is your story as well.

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