Note to self: I will never, ever again put my head down while a photographer is in the room, because it makes me look like I have a double chin. Yesterday my wife, Joan, and I were featured in a story on the front page of the New York Times Metro section -- complete with a photo of her looking radiant and me looking like... I have a double chin. We made news as one of the lucky 200 or so New York couples to have our marriages declared legal by a Massachusetts judge last Wednesday.
Long story short: officials in New York and MA have been playing hot potato with the status of our marriage ever since we got hitched in Provincetown, MA on May 19th, 2004. "Sure I'll recognize the marriages of same-sex couples from NY," said then-NY State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, "if MA will." "Sure, we'll marry same-sex couples from NY," said then-MA Attorney General Thomas Reilly, "if NY will recognize the marriages."
That deadlock finally broke last Wednesday when a MA judge ruled that those of us who had married between May 2004 (when same-sex marriage first became legal in MA) and July 2006 (when the NY Court of Appeals decided that same-sex marriage was not allowed) had legitimate marriages. Meanwhile, all of the other thousands of queer New Yorkers who would have loved to get married are now barred from doing so until who knows when. The state-based legal route is shut off by the NY decision, and no marriage equality advocate with two brain cells to rub together wants to go near the current federal Supreme Court.
Now-Governor Spitzer proposed a bill before our state legislature late last month that would legalize gay marriage, but this is the same infamously deadlocked state legislature that can't reach consensus on what three toppings to put on a pizza. Saying you're going to push for same-sex marriage through the NYS legislature is like saying that you're going to push for same-sex marriage by appealing to Bill O'Reilly.
But on to the more important questions, the questions the reporter asked.
Do you feel like the ruling makes your marriage more legal?
Yes, the ruling, which sets legal precedent, makes our marriage more legal. But the fact is that none of us NY couples are going to know whether this ruling carries real water until one of our spouses winds up dead or in an intensive care unit. That's when we'll find out whether we're treated as next of kin or as strangers. Who's to say whether medical staff will have heard of this decision? And who wants to wait in the hallway arguing when your wife needs you? Benefits like social security, pensions, tax breaks, and spousal health insurance without the current "gay tax" of $5,000 plus per year will have to wait until the federal government recognizes gay marriage.
Does this latest court ruling do anything, or is it just symbolic?
Both. When those two black students walked through the doors of the University of Alabama in 1963, racism didn't end. But it was a turning point in American history, and their gesture pushed the envelope on a discussion that this country badly needed to have (and still needs to keep having) about civil, human, and constitutional rights and racism.
Our marriage being recognized won't bring marriage equality to the hundreds of thousands of LGBT people who would marry if they could. But I'm hoping that this decision pushes the envelope just one inch further on a discussion that this country very badly needs to keep having about civil, human, and constitutional rights and gender-based discrimination. Because the days of this country treating LGBT people as second-class citizens need to end soon.
And honestly, about that photo? The way that Joan looks at me almost makes up for that double chin. I hope she'll look at me that way forever.
Nancy Goldstein lives and writes in New York City.