Jeez, that felt good. Nothing like a little Canadian marriage to lift a gal’s spirits. What a pleasure to walk into a downtown Vancouver (British Columbia) office, chat with the friendly notary public and walk out with an actual, legal, uncontestable marriage license. Just like that. No muss, no fuss. No Oregon Family Council screeching that you’re violating the sanctity of one-man/one-woman marriage. No anti-gay county commissioner scowling like you’re some disgusting piece of crud stuck to the bottom of his shoe. None of that. Just a nice guy doing his job and happy to pop our wad of bills bearing The Queen’s portrait into his cash drawer — and into the Canadian economy.
My bride and I had crossed the border into a country where nobody tramples on your right to marry. You simply set a date with any official marriage commissioner, show up with your notarized license and get legally married the same as any other couple can. Pretty cool. So remarkably, shockingly, unabashedly normal.
Not that I’m pushing assimilation. My message isn’t that lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people are “just like” heteros. Why set the bar so low? LGBTQ folks have our own special contributions to make, questions to raise, comfort zones to tweak. But still, queer as we are, British Columbia treated Wifey and me like everyone else: equals under the law. A shining moment of full equality — what a terrific feeling.
We were so happy. Although if you’d seen us that afternoon in the commissioner’s living room you’d never have guessed it. We both cried through the whole ceremony. I mean really. A simple civil service, and the two of us carried on like we were at some funeral. Tears of joy, I guess, but something even more than that. A spiritual and uplifting sensation of truth and affirmation that justice — equal rights for everyone — is not only possible, it’s already happening.
How awesome to stand there in the kindly commissioner’s modest home — Pachelbel’s Canon playing not-so-subtly in the background — in front of impartial witnesses, hold the familiar hands of my partner of nineteen years and recite our vows. The same vows recited by every other couple married under Canadian law. Our bond was sealed by the power vested in this unfazed marriage commissioner, and we were pronounced married. We signed our names to the official registry, which — she told us over a pink Koala toast to our happiness — will be archived in the annals of national history forever. O! Canada.
Back here in Oregon, fair-minded people have been trying for some 34 years to end the state’s reign of legal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender expression. When you read this, Oregon’s state legislature is expected to have passed SB2, the Oregon Equality Act (now called the Domestic Partnership Act) and will pass HB 2007, the Oregon Family Fairness Act. These long-awaited laws will protect our access to employment, housing and public accommodation and provide legal recognition for our domestic partnerships. It’s not quite total equality. But it’s a huge step.
The opposition is freaked. They’re still outraged at having to share the planet with us sex-crazed predatory godless queers. They’re hauling out the tired old “Save Our Children” boogeyman — as if children aren’t already desperate for salvation from homophobia and religious intolerance. They act like the world as we know it will end — and not in the good, rapture sort of way. Like legal recognition of our domestic partnership could somehow force fundamentalist Christians to read Dan Savage (if they don’t already). It’s all so frantic and fearful and stark raving wrong.
But just north of the border, across that thin geographic line, lies another, more peaceful, more accepting world where equality for everyone is already the law of the land. It can happen here. Oregon is taking one step closer to the promise of liberty and justice for all. If Canada is any indication, that’s going to feel fabulous!
Sally Sheklow was voted Best Local Writer in EW’s 2006-2007 Best of Eugene readers’ poll.