I let the cat out of the bag in my last post: we’re getting hitched.
In writing a friend about our upcoming nuptials, I called it our shotgun lesbian wedding. I’m only marrying Marta to make an honest woman out of her, I joked. Really, she’s only marrying me so I can be the honest mother of our child, legally speaking. Though it’s slightly more complicated than that.
We’re lucky to live in a state that allows gay marriage. Iowa is the only Midwestern state where same-sex marriage is legal. In fact, Marta and I met, more or less*, at the rally in April 2009 celebrating the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling gay couples had the right to marrying. Though I’ve never been a huge proponent of mixing marriage with the state, I’ve come to the conclusion that, since the two are so inextricably entwined at this point and because marriage carries with it so many legal and financial benefits, it’s only just that all couples have access to it. And in starting a family with someone, you really do realize how many rights you are regularly denied by not being able to marry.
Only the blue states here are the ones where same-sex marriage is allowed. For more info go here.
Because we can get married in Iowa, for instance, I am going to be able to adopt little Nico/Balduina/Gabriela (we’re still debating names, as you can see) more quickly and easily than I would have been able to if we were, as thousands of couples are in the U.S., without the right to marry. In Iowa, if we aren’t married, we would have to have wait six months and have home visits from a social worker before I might legally adopt our child. If we’re married, we can file the paperwork and (hopefully) get a judge’s approval within a week after the baby’s birth.
And yet, Iowa law has a strange double-standard.
If you are a married straight couple and the woman has a baby, she may put her husband’s name on the birth certificate, even if he’s not the father. Because he could be the father, the system allows you to declare him the father. No matter if that pregnant woman used a donor because her husband is infertile or if, on a whim, she had a crazy lover affair, got pregnant with another man’s child but then reconciled with her husband and he agreed to raise the child as his own. There are no questions asked. If the straight pregnant woman wants her husband on the birth certificate, she gets it.
If the lesbian pregnant woman wants her partner on the birth certificate they say: Get yourself a lawyer.
Which we have. A very nice woman who says she’s handled dozens of such cases in our town. They’re simple and resolved rather quickly, she assured us. She’ll represent us in court. Our donor will sign away his rights. And the judge should sign off on it all, for only about $2,000 in court and lawyer fees. Though you better get married, she advised.
And so, just like that, we very romantically proposed to each other.
I thought very little of it for a long time. We knew we were going to get married before the baby was born. But we had yet to work out the details. We were thinking something small in May, but then realized Marta would be giving birth in May. So that was out of the question. We thought about April then, but for that her parents would have to fly over from Spain and it would be cruel, and expensive, to ask them to fly out twice, first for the wedding and then again for the baby’s birth. Then we thought we’d have the wedding after the baby is born, in June, and get legally hitched beforehand so I could adopt. Just thinking about planning a wedding with a new baby nearly left us both in tears, so that plan was also scratched.
Eventually we settled on this: A very, very small ceremony, cobbled together rather quickly, with a friend to serve as the officiate and Marta’s niece and nephew as the ring bearers–though we have yet to find rings or even decide if that’s what we want. We’re going to write vows, but we might just give them to each other rather than read them out loud. Just to have a little ritual during the ceremony, I joked that we should spin around in circles until we’re dizzy, growl like bears and then kiss. Not sure if that idea will come to fruition.
It’s not a Julie Robert’s movie, but then neither of us is the Julie Roberts type (though, god, do I love Pretty in Pink). We love each other enough that we had already decided to raising a child together. Then the state came in and told us we’d better get married if we want to raise her together legally. So, in some ways, the government made us do it. But now that we’re doing it, I’m getting a little sentimental.
In trying to explain it to Marta, I said: “It’s like if you were a vegetarian but then you decided to eat meat. You’d totally get the steak tenderloin.”
She looked back at me blankly.
What I meant was, I never really thought I’d get married. To me, it’s just not that important. What’s more important is the way you live your life with someone else, the way you treat them and treat yourself when you’re with them. You don’t need the government to deem your relationship more stable or worthy than those of other people.
And yet, once I decided to “eat” marriage, so to speak, I totally wanted the steak tenderloin variety. I wrote to the this nonprofit church in town to see how much it would cost to rent their auditorium for an hour. The woman wrote back to inform me that they don’t rent by the hour. I got pissy and wrote back, Well then how much does it cost for the day? She sent me a very snarky form email that congratulated me on my plans for marriage and laid out all the amenities of the auditorium, which are available for the small cost of $1,500.
I realized that, if you really want the steak tenderloin marriage, you have to start planning, and saving for it. Which we haven’t. Nor does either of us want to. We’d rather spend our money on a steak tenderloin vacation.
And so, as I said before, we’ll be having a very small and simple (read: tofu and sautéed vegetables) ceremony. And I am sure it will be lovely. Then one day in the future, we’ve decided, we’ll have a bit ol’ party and invite all our friends and family. We’ll call it the post Shotgun Lesbian Wedding and by then we’ll have the money to rent that auditorium and provide free booze and cake. And mostly likely we’ll be able to round up a sitter to take care of Nico when we go on our post-post Shotgun Lesbian Wedding honeymoon.
For now, though, we just have to figure out about those rings…
*We’d actually met a month or so before, on a blind date, but were both too stubborn to let others set us up. There was no chemistry that time, but when we ran into each other at the rally, it was different. I was handing out gay marriage cookies and offered her one. She was wearing a leather jacket that was quite becoming on her. I was instantly smitten.