The heart of the matter

Written by Zan Goldblatt
We're having a wedding this summer. I say we're "having a wedding" and not "getting married" because we actually are already legally married – and the reason behind how that came to be really drives home how important the freedom to marry for gay couples is.

I'm an American citizen and my husband Stephen is from England. About two weeks after we got engaged in January, he found out there was a problem with his work visa and might be forced to leave the country. After some frantic calls to a variety of attorneys, we wound up getting married at City Hall in New York. The fact that we even had that option brings into sharp relief the injustice that our gay and lesbian friends and family members have to deal with, since the federal government won't recognize their marriages for green card sponsorship. The thought of being torn apart like that is simply awful.
But let's back up a bit and say how we got together in the first place: I spent two weeks one summer on a "working-vacation" at a cattle ranch out west. Stephen was the head-cowboy, and as quiet as I am talkative. Afterwards, I stayed in touch – mostly in the spirit of a challenge, to see if I could draw him out. He hardly said five words to me the whole time at the farm, but little did I know he had a big crush on me. By that winter I had developed a big crush too, through our letters. Then the grant funding for my job dried up so I headed back to the ranch, newly unemployed, to bide my time until I heard from the graduate programs I'd applied to. Plus I was curious about this cowboy and whether or not we were truly compatible or if this was only a postal romance.
As it turns out, it was the real deal and we fell in love. In the fall Stephen followed me to New York so I could start my PhD program. He found a job at a farm upstate that would sponsor a work-visa for him. But a few months later – right after Stephen proposed – there were technical problems with the visa. Even though we had the option to get married right away and "solve" the problem, it was still incredibly stressful; but we were so lucky that we could get married. We didn't have to be separated because of some bureaucratic error. It is terrible and unjust that if we were a same-sex couple our lives would have been totally upended.
We're still planning on our wedding this summer on the farm with all of our friends and family. As we commit to each other, we will also make a commitment to working together for an equitable and just world for everyone.

We still have to go through all the green card paperwork, but we can basically exhale now. Because here's the thing: even though we were engaged before all this happened, and even though we were planning our wedding before we had to make it legal at City Hall, the wedding wasn't the point. The point of marriage for us is what happens after the wedding – the part where we get to build our lives together. How could we have done that if we were forced to live in separate countries? And for us that's the heart of the matter: the freedom to marry isn't about the freedom to have a wedding – it's about the freedom to build your life with the person you choose.

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