By Lisa Dazols
I've been calling Jenni my partner now for a year and a half. Somewhere around the time we rented our first UHaul truck, I shifted the label from "girlfriend" to "partner." The change in language went relatively unnoticed except for the one time I had to clarify to a straight guy that Jenni was the woman I slept with and not my business partner.
Now that we're engaged and spending our weekends at IKEA, we feel married. We've merged our financial accounts and our social schedules. And most importantly, we've booked a wedding date for next June in our home state of California.
While we're not having our public ceremony for another 10 months, we've felt somewhat vulnerable without legal protections so we decided to complete our domestic partnership paperwork. Expecting a complicated process, I was surprised that I only had to download a single page document. No witnesses or ceremony necessary -- just a space for a notary to confirm each person's identity. In California, we're quite lucky that this one page document gives us nearly all the legal rights of a marriage.
On our weekly date night, we headed to get our domestic partnership paperwork properly notarized. Our destination for this sacred event? The UPS office. Amongst stacks of packing boxes and shipping supplies, a 20-something UPS desk clerk named Jesus notarized our paperwork. He had never notarized a domestic union before and was quite amused when Jenni whipped out the videocamera to capture the moment. He humored us by taking a picture. We couldn't help but wonder what Jenni's religious mother would say if she knew that Jesus was blessing our union.
A line was forming behind us, and we had to put away our camera. When the cashier rang us up for the notarization fee (another young kid with dreads and a pimply face), he handed us the document and said, "Have a nice night... and a happy life together." It was altogether a strange, extremely casual way to make a legally binding lifetime commitment to someone. Trying to keep some element of sacredness, I stopped Jenni from picking up some packing tape on the way out of the UPS office.
This whole unromantic process just reinforced to me how much we need marriage equality. While we have the same state rights as married partners now, the process feels as pedestrian as completing a passport application. There are no vows, no witnesses, and no kiss!
Domestic partnership is an important step, but it really doesn't have the sanctity of marriage. This sanctity is the very value our opponents block us from having. To compensate, we create our own sacred spaces and have unofficial weddings and gatherings with friends. This is all fine and good, but from the point of view of the U.S. government and even more importantly from the point of view of U.S. society, our union is still not equal to an opposite-sex union. At the end of the day, I really just can't wait until I can drop the word partner and start to call Jenni my wife.
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