For a long time my partner and I have known that our futures would be intertwined. About a year ago, the conversation began to shift from both of us dreaming of law school to each of us taking active steps towards attending law school. As our conversation moved from dreaming to paying for it (and the sticker shock that is private and public law schools in this country), we began toying with the idea of making our relationship legitimate (read: legal). We figured that if we had legal standing as a partnership, both being in law school, our potential loan cap could increase. Romantic, no?
We began to discuss seriously how legalizing our union would change our lives; how we would have some legal protections for our relationship and a responsibility to care for each other, would always be able to visit each other in the hospital and have power of attorney over each other, and could take family and medical leave to care for each other. We talked about traveling together, and how the US embassy would see us differently if we traveled together as legal partners.
My partner and I are strong supporters of marriage equality, and both of us volunteered for the Approve Referendum 71 Campaign. We are proud that our state affords the same rights to couples in civil union and marriage. But as Thurgood Marshall argued in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), separate but equal is not equal. The word “marriage” needs to be applied to every set of partners who wants it, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. The idea that civil union and marriage are equal in Washington state, but not the same thing, reeks of inequality.
… couples marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one’s needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society.
As a straight couple who will be a part of a restricted institution, my future husband and I will continually fight for that institution to become fair. We are getting married for the same reason that most homosexual and heterosexual couples want to marry, because we want to commit to each other (and then get the legal benefits).
Until all citizens can share in this institution and its benefits, marriage won’t be truly equal.