Photo Credit: Courtesy of Patty Onderko
Last night, my wife Emily and I had a fight. She was mad about where I had placed my shoes and I was mad that she was mad about something so petty (to me). The argument snowballed until -- in typical couple-who-has-been-together-for-12-years fashion -- we were bringing up past hurts, complaining about being unappreciated, and saying things like “I can’t believe you!” and “I am so done!” Emily spent half the night on the couch.
In the morning, we begrudgingly made up. At 11am, Emily called from work and didn’t even say hello. Instead, she said, “We’re married.”
“Do you not want to be?” I asked, confused.
“No, we’re really married. Federally. The Supreme Court voted down DOMA.”
“Oh, wow. Oh my god, that’s incredible.” We’d been waiting for the ruling since it was first announced that the SCOTUS would be examining the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act -- an act which prevented our same-sex New York marriage from being recognized beyond state lines and denied us over 1,000 rights afforded to opposite-sex marriages -- with great anxiousness.
But the fight and the activities of the afternoon (it’s our twin boys’ last day of kindergarten) caused me to forget that the historic decision was expected today. Emily and I didn’t get a chance to talk about it, though; she had to run to a meeting and I had to get ready to pick up our sons.
Oddly, I didn’t know how to feel. And I was more concerned with packing my bag with sandwiches, Cheddar Bunnies, sunscreen, and water guns for an after-school picnic in the park. But as I was wrapping a PB&J in tin foil, I started to cry.
You know, I’m not an activist and while I’m passionate about equal rights, things have always been okay for our family, so I wasn’t expecting the ruling to affect me on a terribly emotional level. I knew I would be overjoyed for our family and country if it was positive, and disgusted if it wasn’t. But what I was feeling was profound relief.
I’ve always felt a degree of pressure to be a sort of poster couple for the equal-rights movement. As a same-sex couple with a small amount of visibility (our family has been featured a few times in national magazines and I write regularly about what it’s like to be a two-mom/two-sons family), I was reluctant to ever admit that our relationship had any cracks, no matter how small. If our marriage ends, does that invalidate everything we’ve ever said about marriage equality? Does it validate the opposition’s arguments that we are not meant to be married or raise children together? I’ve always wanted to be an example of a shiny, happy two-mom family, so as to not give anyone any excuses to deny us equality.
But knowing that our relationship had just been deemed equal to everyone else’s by the highest law of the land -- and that our rights would be honored and protected by the federal government -- made me feel like I’ve been sucking it in and now I could loosen my belt. And that it would be alright if I did. Emily and I fight. We can be really mean to each other, sometimes. And sometimes we’re really crappy parents. Just like everyone else.
But we love each other. And we don’t want to end our marriage. We are incredible to each other most of the time. And sometimes we’re really good parents. Just like everyone else. The other day one of my sons told me he wanted a mom and a dad so that he could be “just like everyone else.” And that feeling will persist, probably, until he’s a young man who can process what it means for him to have the parents he has. While he doesn’t realize it yet, he is, now, in that way “just like everyone else.”
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