I keep missing the boat on same-sex marriage

     Minn. Governor Mark Dayton signs the state's same-sex marriage bill into law in front of the Capitol in Saint Paul on Tuesday as bill authors Sen. Scott Dibble, second from left, with his partner Richard Leyva, and Rep. Karen Clark, second from right, and her partner Jacqueline Zitaduring, look on. (Craig Lassig/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign)

    Minn. Governor Mark Dayton signs the state's same-sex marriage bill into law in front of the Capitol in Saint Paul on Tuesday as bill authors Sen. Scott Dibble, second from left, with his partner Richard Leyva, and Rep. Karen Clark, second from right, and her partner Jacqueline Zitaduring, look on. (Craig Lassig/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign)

    On Tuesday, Minnesota became the 12th state in the union to legally recognize same-sex marriage — and the first Midwestern state to do so through legislative means. And I couldn’t be more annoyed.

    On Tuesday, with his signature, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton made the Land of 10,000 Lakes the 12th state in the union to legally recognize same-sex marriage — and the first Midwestern state to do so through legislative means.

    And I couldn’t be more annoyed.

    This business in Minnesota means that my partner of 15 years and I have now lived in two states that adopted same-sex marriage after we left. While same-sex marriage advocates have been chasing their goals for years state by state, I feel like marriage equality has been chasing me. And it has not yet caught up.

    Pa. on the outside looking in

    In Pennsylvania, we’re surrounded by it. Maryland and Delaware to the south, and New York to the north, all recognize same-sex marriage. Even New Jersey had the chance to shoot it down in 2011 when, after it passed both houses, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it. But here in Philadelphia, Pa., cradle of liberty, City of Brotherly Love, same-sex marriage isn’t even on the table. Bills to legalize same-sex marriage, introduced by Sen. Daylin Leach and Rep. Babette Josephs, have languished in committee since 2009.

    Two years after my partner and I moved from New York City to Philadelphia, I watched on C-SPAN with equal parts excitement and chagrin on the evening of July 24, 2011, when the New York State Legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law that very night.

    As happy as I was for my friends who could now have legal recognition of the unions they had cultivated for years, I smiled through gritted teeth. We had missed the boat.

    “You can take the Bolt Bus to New York and get married for real,” some friends enthused.

    But my partner and I decided long ago that we would marry “for real” when it became legal in the state where we are living. Nothing against people who travel to get hitched. I can understand the thrill of being married instead of “married.” I can understand the novelty of having my relationship recognized somewhere. And why shouldn’t Iowa or Massachusetts or Washington, D.C., see the benefits of gay and lesbian tourists?

    I just want to have a legal marriage when I get back home.

    Will “marriage” become marriage?

    Nine years ago, when we were living in Minneapolis, we knew we were in it for the long haul. When we moved there together from Michigan, I was fresh out of college, and we had been dating less than a year. Let me tell you, if you can survive a Minnesota winter in close quarters with your boyfriend, you can survive anything. Six years of it certainly deserved some kind of celebration. So we got as married as we could get.

    On a brilliant blue and green September day, we had a beautiful commitment ceremony in a park in our neighborhood, at the highest point in the city. We had the pastor. We had the blessing of friends and family from around the country. We had the cake and the dancing and the open bar. We had the gifts — lord, did we have the gifts! And we had the love and the determination to stick together. What we did not have was a legal marriage.

    Now, all my wonderful gay and lesbian friends in the City of Lakes, who have been waiting and hoping, and in some cases fighting, for the right to marry, have what I do not and likely will not have for some time.

    Make no mistake: I’m proud of getting committed before marriage was legal. It meant as much to me then as it does now. We own a home together. His family is mine, and mine his. We still cook with the pots and pans we got nine years ago in Minnesota. We didn’t wait for the law to catch up with the truth.

    Delaware and Minnesota may have their fancy weddings and their marriage licenses. In a strange way, we are free. Wherever we go, our “marital” status will stay the same. Whereas, if our married friends move to West Virginia or South Dakota, some of them would be rendered roommates under the law. I wish I had that problem here in Pennnsylvania.

    We love Philadelphia, and we have no plans to leave any time soon — but maybe we should rejoin our friends in New York or Minnesota. Pennsylvania’s LGBT community may thank us for it, for the surest way to marriage equality seems to be for me and my partner to pack up and move out!

    Eleven years ago, while traveling to attend someone else’s (heterosexual) wedding, the man I then called my boyfriend asked me in front of the grand and stately main branch of the New York Public Library to marry him. It was the perfect place for a proposal, standing next to those stone lions parked outside the front steps. We didn’t know it then, but the lions are named Patience and Fortitude. It does take patience and fortitude to survive a marriage. If I stay in Pennsylvania, it will take patience and fortitude just to have the chance.

    Eric Walter is a web producer and editor for NewsWorks.

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