Please watch this video. And then take a moment to pause before reading on...
This act of civil disobedience illustrates the growing level of frustration felt by many of us in the LGBT community about the laws that legislate love. We are tired of being treated like second-class citizens. When we go to another jurisdiction to get married and come home, we are still viewed by the law in our home states as "roommates."
My partner and I did a similar protest as this one three years ago. It was around Valentine's Day and we went to the Leon County Tax Collector's office to seek a marriage license. We didn't have nearly the gathering of LGBT people with us that day. But we did have some who witnessed what happened. We sat and waited our turn, watching an African-American couple, who appeared to be the same age as our relationship, file the necessary paperwork and turn over the check to get their license. When it was our turn, the clerk took our papers and stared at them. She looked up in all seriousness and said, "You know we can't do this." Another clerk came and stood with her, arms folded across her chest, as we explained why we wanted to get married. We did not chain ourselves together, but we did press our case. The county official, naturally, kept explaining that the law prohibited us from getting married. We told her we knew that, and that we object to the law. We asked her if she would stamp "Denied" on our application. She said she didn't have the type of stamp, so we made one of our own. Because that's what it feels like to have an official of the government tell you, "You know we can't do this."
In Washington state this week, the Governor has signed a bill allowing the likes of me to get married. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently overturned Prop 8, the anti-marriage law. And in New Jersey, a bill to legalize marriage equality is going to Governor Chris Christie. Sadly, Christie is vowing to veto the legislation, Prop 8 supporters are planning to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, and a referendum battle is coming to Washington state to place marriage equality before the voters of that state. The see-saw fight over the civil right to be married continues. Pundits from the left and the right will yackity-yack on television about the issue. Political action committees from the left and the right will use the issue to raise bucket loads of money. And you can bet that Presidential and other candidates will be sure to weigh in with their very considered opinions.
And what is the effect of all this attention? Speaking strictly as one gay person living in a state where my "manner of life" prohibits me from getting married, it hardens my heart. I watch ads on TV or see posters at events with the blushing bride in white and her handsome man in a tuxedo waiting at the end of the aisle and it stings. It is a reminder of what the voters of Florida did on November 4, 2008, when nearly 61-percent cast a ballot that said, "You are not like us; therefore you do not deserve this civil right." Is it any wonder that on the day after, November 5th which the British celebrate as Guy Fawkes Day, I felt rebellious?
Friends say to me that in their hearts and minds, me and my partner are married. Others want to assure me that God knows we are a couple in the same way that our hetero brothers and sisters are joined in matrimony. I appreciate these sentiments, but unfortunately they do not negate the cold, hard fact that under the laws of this state and this country, my partner and I are merely roommates. Roommates do not have the benefit of joint health insurance. Roommates do not have the benefit of social security. Roommates are strangers under the law; not a recognized family of two.
I am somebody. I demand full equality right here, right now. When I hear that chant on this video in all its fury and demand, I get it. We are reaching a point in this struggle where many of us who have been standing on this battlefield for love are getting fed up with the foot dragging. My "manner of life" should include marriage. Period.