I'd Leave the Country, but My Wife Won't Let Me

Bush Takes Aim at My American Family

I look for example to older African Americans, though many of them don't want us, either. Not wanting to offend, I silently think of the children marching into the fire hoses of Birmingham, the adults who sat at segregated lunch counters while mobs poured ketchup on their heads. Some mothers and fathers back then asked their kids to be first through the schoolhouse door, rocks and bullets and all. Others left for the relative tolerance up North in places like Chicago and Harlem, unwilling to make an existence of waiting. I know what's happening to us isn't the same as that, exactly, but it requires of me the same kind of courage. You just hope the breakthrough happens in your lifetime.

The privacy of this struggle may be the worst part, the continued aloneness of being. So many people don't get it. They say things to us like "Being married isn't all it's cracked up to be"—as if we weren't religiously married already, as if being blocked from the city clerk's door were great fun. They say, "Wouldn't civil unions be enough?" or, now that gay couples are marrying out West, "I'd hate for this marriage thing to win Bush the election." They say, "You really have to pay taxes like that?" and "Being domestic partners doesn't help you?" and "You should see the marriage penalty we pay." They say, "Oh, I wish it were different for you." They say, "Come to our wedding! We're getting married!"

Sometimes I think the greatest hindrance to our cause is the sheer force of the American legend. So strongly do people believe this country stands for freedom that they can't fathom it's ever otherwise. Sign a few contracts, the well-intentioned advise, and you'll get all the same rights as straight couples—that's an outrageous fiction, but not as outrageous as the notion that being almost equal under the law is good enough.

illustration: Mirko Ilic


More coverage of Bush's Gay Marriage Ban:
  • I'd Leave America, but My Wife Won't Let Me by Laura Conaway
  • Inside City Hall: Politics and Protest by Richard Goldstein
  • A Radical Fix: Civil Unions for All by Alisa Solomon
  • Mad on the Street: New Yorkers Weigh In by Coco McPherson
  • Constitutional Amendments: The Winners and Losers by L.A. Scot Powe Jr.

  • Demonstrate!
    Participate in NEW YORK MARRIAGE NOW!, a demonstration at City Hall on Thursday, March 4, 2004 from 8:00 AM until 9:30 AM. Visit NYMarriageNow.org for more information.

    For now, we can't get even that far, with leaders like Bush smirking at this thing Sarah and I call marriage. Should he need proof of the moral weight of our vows, I'd ask him to consider this: If it weren't for the true marriage I'm in, and the needs of the wife I've pledged to love, I would flee this America to fulfill my own dream of equality. Instead, with no small sum of fear, I will stay with her and fight.

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