Take a moment and imagine sitting at work in downtown Indianapolis, looking out your window at the cars driving past on I-65 on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. You see a post come across your Facebook feed that reads “Federal judge: IN marriage ban unconstitutional.”
Your heart immediately smiles, because what you have been hoping for the past 8½ years finally is going to happen: You are finally allowed to “legally” marry the woman you vowed to “love, honor and cherish until death do you part.” You had said those words seven years earlier – almost to the day – in a commitment ceremony on a beach in Key West, Florida.
You immediately call your wife (you have already felt married, regardless of whether you have a piece of paper that says so) and tell her the exciting news. You discuss it and agree to go the courthouse the next day to get the license so you can legally marry the following day. That will be the same date on which you said “I do” seven years earlier.
The next day, you log on to your county’s website to complete the wedding license request form, so all you have to do after work is go to the courthouse, show the required documents and get the license. While filling out the form, you notice it asks about previous marriages and how they ended. You find yourself giggling, because under the “how many previous marriages” tab, you can select up to 20. You think to yourself, “Good Lord… all I want to do is get married once.” You complete the form and take a picture of the confirmation page, posting it to Facebook with this message: “What better way to celebrate your 7th anniversary… we are getting married at midnight.”
Midnight, your friends ask? Yes, you respond, because you have to work in the morning, and you are leaving at noon for your vacation – now honeymoon – and you are determined to make it legal on your already-recognized anniversary date. You have a friend who performs wedding ceremonies who is more than willing to marry you at midnight and friends who are just as excited to witness it.
After work, you drive home, which normally takes 17 minutes but now seems to take hours; pick up your “wife” and drive to the courthouse to get your license. The ladies in the office are so supportive. “So happy for you both. Congrats,” they say as you leave with your marriage license.
You are like a kid on Christmas Eve. You are giddy and excited, and then the nerves start. Why are you nervous? You have already – in your own mind – been married to this woman for almost seven years. You have a home together, cars together, you are raising kids together, you have experienced the weddings of your two oldest kids and the births of your grandbabies together. So why the nerves? Maybe it’s because now it will be legal. Now, all those people who dismissed what you considered a marriage will now have to acknowledge that in fact you are married. Maybe they are happy nerves. Maybe the emotions you have been holding in for so many years are now trying to figure out what to do with themselves.
But whatever it is, you know without a doubt, they are not nerves of wondering whether you are doing the right thing.
As you make preparations for the wedding, you find yourself counting down the minutes. You get home and decide to rest since you will be up at midnight and have to be at work six hours later. But you can’t sleep. So, the two of you talk about how this is a dream come true and how you can’t wait to take your first vacation as legal wife and wife.
NO MORE BURDENS
Midnight comes. Your friends are there. The ceremony is full of tears of joy and laughter. The “I do’s” take place, and the marriage license is signed by the officiator and both brides. It’s dated June 27, 2014. That’s the same date you said “I do” seven years earlier on the beach in Key West. It’s the same date you celebrate each year as your anniversary, and it’s tattooed on your wrist with the words “I do.”
You open the bottle of champagne and pour glasses for you and your friends. You have a toast and thank them for being a part of this special day. Sky lanterns are floating high in the sky, and everyone has sparklers. And you breathe a sigh of relief. You are officially wife and wife, legally, in the state where you have lived your entire life.
There won’t be any more issues of you going into each other’s hospital room; making legal decisions; or confronting the turmoil over hearing how you are not “legal” or your kids hearing how their parents are not really married.
When you look into your wife’s eyes, you have never felt the love that radiates from her like you do now. Life is great!
Fast-forward to two weeks after you saw the Facebook post that changed your life forever.
Take a moment and imagine sitting at work downtown, looking out your window at the cars driving past on I-65 on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. You have – as you and others have recently noticed – a constant smile on your face. You returned a couple of days earlier from your yearly anniversary trip, but this time, it was different. This time was more like a well-deserved, overdue honeymoon.
You have been planning a reception to be held at the end of August, so all of your friends and family who have supported you can help you and your wife celebrate this occasion. Your kids will be there, your grandkids, your mom, aunts and uncles. Everyone who means everything to you will be there, to show their support and love for you and your wife.
Take a moment and imagine sitting at work downtown, looking out your window at the cars driving past on I-65 an hour later on this same sunny Wednesday afternoon and seeing a post come across your Facebook feed that reads, “Indiana won’t recognize same-sex marriages performed last month.”
This time, you can’t call your wife because you are so devastated by what you are reading. Disbelief turns into sadness. You can’t comprehend how a state can give you something and then take it away. All the happy emotions you felt earlier in the day have now turned to this: your heart sinking and sickness in your stomach.
You wonder how you are going to tell your… roommate (in the eyes of the state). How are you going to tell your friends and family that what was supposed to be the best party and celebration next month is now going to be canceled because you really are not married? What are you going to do with the notarized, stamped and signed marriage license you received from the county clerk?
You are devastated.
On your way home, you send a text to your “wife” instead of calling to let her know you are on your way home. You can’t even speak because of the tears. Finally, you get yourself together and call. She answers, and you immediately start crying again. She is wondering what is wrong. Why on earth are you so upset? she asks. And you tell her. You can hear the devastation in her voice when the word “seriously” comes out of her mouth. Neither of you can believe it.
After you talk it out and get the initial emotions out, you discuss what you should do. How can the state just take your money, give you the “approval” to get married and then take it away? Your sadness is now turning into anger. Someone is going to pay.
After reading supportive messages on Facebook from friends and family, you calm down a little bit. Your emotions are now more controlled, and you are talking clearly about how this is going to affect your life. You both decide that you want to continue with the reception planning. You have already put so much money into it, and anyone who shows up is supportive of you and your relationship, and they already feel like you are married anyway. So why not celebrate and share that with them?
You post on Facebook your decision to continue with the reception and receive the same supportive messages. “This is such an honor,” they say. “Thank you for thinking of us.” “Of course, we will be there.” And you think to yourself, Wow… are we really going to let a piece of paper make us think we aren’t married? HECK NO!
WE WON'T QUIT
The next morning is like any other morning. You get up and get ready for work. The grandbabies are dropped off so your WIFE can watch them, and you go about your day. You both communicate during the day about how many stamps are needed for the invitations and what kind of alcohol you are going to have at the reception. Your day goes as any other.
A friend texts you and says that your marriage license announcement is in the paper. You are excited, just a little bit, because even though the state is now not recognizing your marriage, you never thought you would see your names under that section.
When the grandbabies are picked up, you both go to the gas station to get copies of the paper. Your wife goes in to get them, and when she comes back out, you can tell by the look on her face something is not right. You grab one of the copies and immediately start looking through the pages to find the section that has the announcement. You finally come to Page A7, and at the top middle of the page, you see it: “Marriage Licenses.” It is listed in date order, so you look for June 26, and since you were the last one of the day to get one, you look at the bottom. There it is… in black and white… in writing that can never be taken back. In a newspaper that will be available forever to see: “Deborah Roysdon, Greenfield, and Sherry Roysdon, Greenfield.”
You find yourself smiling… until you look at your wife and see she is not. You ask her what is wrong, and she turns the paper back to the front page. You see in bold, capital letters, the headline: “GAY MARRIAGES WON’T BE RECOGNIZED.” Once again, your heart sinks, and the sickness in your stomach is back. What was supposed to be a keepsake for your kids and grandkids, family and friends to be able to read and keep for a lifetime, is now a reminder of what was given to you and taken away all within less than 72 hours. In order for anyone to get to Page A7, they will have to get past the headlines of how the news on Page A7 is null and void.
And it is hitting you that you are experiencing the same feelings one does when going through grief. And any little reminder that what you thought was so real, so unbelievably exciting has now been taken away. But we won’t back down. We will fight until we are able to celebrate again, and we won’t change our thinking or titles we give each other of wife and wife. Our younger kids will continue to know they have two moms, and the other kids will know that their mom is married to a woman. Our grandbabies will continue to call us Nana and Gigi, and our friends and family will continue to ask how my wife is.
Love is love… and I love my wife.