Once, when I was in college, a sociology professor asked the lecture hall if any of us wanted to be married one day. She then expressed surprise at the smattering of hands, stating that it was far fewer than she’d expected.
“I’d like to get married,” I remember saying, though at the time I wasn’t all that sure. “But it isn’t legal here.” There was a low murmur of agreement from some of the other students, and the class moved on. In the far-flung year of 2014, the state of Ohio still maintained a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and a federal ruling in favor of same-sex marriage felt as foreign to me as living on Mars. I knew that gay couples could enter life partnerships, and that a few states would allow same-sex marriages, but from where I sat, traveling somewhere else for a license that would be quickly invalidated in my home state felt futile.
Cut to June 2015. I’m in the shower, a rather unfortunate place to be when same-sex marriage bans are ruled to be unconstitutional. I remember my mom bursting into the bathroom, and I remember crying in a towel, half-shampooed. Even if I never got married, other people could. They would be granted legal protections and visitation rights and could advocate for their spouses in medical and social settings. Same-sex marriage equality wasn’t just about love, but about human rights, though there is still a long way to go.
Another cut to last week. I’m standing in St. Mark’s Park in Brookline, wearing a suit and a ridiculous purple shirt, holding hands with my wife. It’s a wedding of three: my wife, me and our beloved friend Lee (also a lesbian), with a one-day certification from the commonwealth of Massachusetts. It’s fitting that, after all the stress and angst, I was living and getting married in the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. Because of the ongoing pandemic, my wife and I kept our ceremony short and simple: a few remarks and the exchange of handmade rings in our planned wedding colors. We dropped our paperwork in an adjacent mailbox, took some funny pictures and just like that, we were legally bound.
We still plan to have a Jewish wedding with all our friends and family, but after our long-ish engagement, we decided it was time. People keep asking me if I feel different, if the relationship feels different, and I keep surprising them by saying yes. I’m reminded of comedian John Mulaney’s exceptional bit in which he espouses the inherent pleasure of saying, “That’s my wife!” The legitimacy marriage brings feels both very grown-up and very nice.
Now, when I wake up next to my wife, I feel a sense of peace and security that we have devoted our lives to each other not only spiritually, but legally as well. I feel happy and whole and as giddily in love as when we first met. The world may be profoundly uncertain, and it looks to remain that way, but I’m excited for what the future brings and for the little things we have to look forward to along the way.