The Complimentary Spouse and I put up our Christmas tree last night, and can you guess who our favorite Disney character is? Hint: We call him Jumbo Jr., not the horrible nickname given to him by bullies.
We’re having some work done at Camp David today, so I’m camping out in the Complimentary Spouse’s office. It’s a corner office on the third floor. Look past the parking lot and you can see the campus swimming pool. That makes me wonder if Britt is contemplating a transfer from the business school to a different department.
There’s a cool historical marker outside Britt’s office. Before the university was founded, there was a baseball field here. It’s where Babe Ruth hit his longest homer.
Pop inside Britt’s office and you’ll find lots of stuff he has accumulated over the years. These things remind me of how wonderful he is, all the great times we’ve had together, and all the places we’ve visited. Here’s a look at some of my favorite things.
First, here’s a plant we picked up, I think, at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival a few years ago. He named it Baby Groot.
This rat has been sitting on a windowsill for as long as I can remember. I have no idea why it’s here, but I can only assume that Britt is a big fan of the Black Plague.
Lucy has been to Britt’s office a few times. You’ll find one of her chewed-up Nylabones on a bottom shelf.
This is Britt’s academic robe. It’s what he was wearing when he hugged me when I walked across the stage to receive my MBA diploma. Such a delightful color scheme. Not ugly at all.
Since 2010, Britt has framed the front page of The Tuscaloosa News every time Tide won a national championship. Britt likes to point out that there’s room in his office for a lot more of these.
Wherever Britt travels, he picks up a Hard Rock Cafe shot glass. There are at least a hundred of them now. Britt inspired me to start collecting pins, but I gave it up because who wants to become one of those crazy hoarder people?
Here are some of the many instructor’s editions of textbooks on Britt’s bookshelf.
Of course, when you mention instructor’s editions, my mind automatically goes to the Simpsons.
One of our favorite places in the world is New Zealand. Here are some All Blacks figurines.
Another of our favorite places is Prague, and I love the legend of the Golem. I have a few Golems at home, and Britt has one on display in his office.
Britt once took a group of students to China. When he was there, an artist approached him and showed him this plate he had drawn. Sure, it’s a scheme to separate tourists from their money, but, of course, Britt had to buy it. It’s a little smudged, but Britt is taking a photo.
Lastly, here’s my favorite thing about Britt’s office. I leave little Post-It notes for Britt from time to time, and he keeps them under the glass on his desktop. Here’s one of the notes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick tour of Britt’s office. Please remember to tip your tour guide.
Is there anything more fun than pretending you’ve misheard your other half?1 I do this all the time with the Complimentary Spouse, and he seems to enjoy it. In fact, he’s a good sport and goes along with it.
I pretend to mishear him anywhere and anytime I want — even when I’m not wearing a Jacuzzi suit!
Here’s an example from earlier today. We were eating breakfast and Britt, who is coming off a bout of food poisoning, announces, “I think I’m going to stick with the starch food group for a while.”
My response: “The Star Search group?”
He enunciates: “The starch food group.”
Me: “What category?”
1 Yes. Duh. But for the sake of this blog post, let’s assume not.
I just realized I have accidentally called Britt the Complementary Spouse in a few recent posts. This is an error. He is the Complimentary Spouse.
“But, Dave,” I can hear you say.1 “That’s incorrect grammar. Don’t you have an English degree from a Top 25 university? Who are you, Ralph Wiggum?”
How dare you question me, peasant. Those are good points, and I’ve definitely had my share of Wiggumish moments, but let me explain. Long before Britt and I were married — in fact, long before Britt and I could even imagine marriage equality happening — Britt bought a membership at Sam’s Club. When he filled out the form, he was able to add me to the account for free as his “Complimentary Spouse.”
That may seem like a small thing, but it was one of the very first times that an organization recognized us as a couple. Back then, we couldn’t conceive of being spouses due to DOMA and similarly bigoted laws — but at least we could be spouses in the eyes of a retail warehouse club. It was something small, but it was something, and since then, we’ve been each other’s Complimentary Spouses.
1 No, I can’t. What am I, Superman? You’re nowhere near me. How would I possibly hear you saying that?
When the Complimentary Spouse and I met on October 29, 2002, it was unimaginable that we’d be married one day. So it just seemed natural that we’d celebrate our anniversary on October 29 each year.
Fast forward to 2008. All of a sudden, marriage equality is a reality. Britt and I rushed to California and got married on July 3.
And — voilà! — we have two anniversaries on our calendar. We tend to go all-out for our marriage anniversary, but we still take time to do something special on our first-meeting-aversary.
LGBTQ people have been excluded from social conventions for so long that we’ve had to create many of our own traditions and customs. We’re certainly not the only old1 gay couple to have two anniversaries. The double anniversary is more than another excuse for extra presents and cake — it’s an invention by the LGBTQ community that proves that things that seem impossible can become reality.
1 This means that the relationship is old, not that Britt and I are. We’re young and youthful, dammit.
The Complimentary Spouse and I tend to crow about our anniversary every year, and there’s a good reason why we’re so excited about it. When we met in 2002, marriage for a same-sex couple was unimaginable. How we got from there to here is an amazing story, one that’s inextricably linked to the modern movement for civil rights and equality.
Let me tell you how it all happened.
Picture it: Los Angeles, 2004. We’re on vacation when we learn San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has just ordered the city to issue same-sex marriage licenses. We seriously discussed flying or driving to San Francisco, only to decide eventually (and somewhat regretfully) that it would be impractical.
All those marriages were eventually annulled.
A few months later, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, making same-sex marriage legal there. However, the governor at the time (a guy named Mitt Romney) dug up an obscure law that prevented people from getting married in Massachusetts if they couldn’t legally get married in their home state. It was a shameful law enacted ages ago to prevent interracial marriage, and it was being used again to discriminate.
Our Opportunity Arrives
It was four years later when the California Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality. This time, there was no state law preventing people from other states from getting married. I proposed to Britt in the airport when he returned from a trip with students to Istanbul in the spring. We made plans to get our marriage license in July (we had already made plans to go to San Francisco). However, as you might imagine, the wedding schedule at City Hall was already filled up, and we made tentative plans to return for the wedding itself in August or September.
One day, I checked the wedding schedule at City Hall again and found a single opening — July 3 at 3:45 p.m., the last appointment of the day before Independence Day. There must have been a cancellation. I snagged it immediately. Now we could obtain our license and get married on the same day.
All this time, we didn’t tell anyone about our plans. The marriage equality law didn’t go into effect until June 16, and we were worried that it would be blocked. As July drew closer, our marriage seemed more like a sure thing. With a few days to go, we let six people in on the secret: my mother and father, my brother and sister-in-law, and Britt’s brother and sister-in-law.
We had some problems getting to San Francisco on July 2, but were able to reroute our trip to San Jose and arrive very late. Britt’s brother and sister-in-law picked us up early in the morning and drove us to San Francisco, where my parents had arrived the previous day.
We had lunch on July 3 at a California Pizza Kitchen across from the Westin, where we were staying. In an odd coincidence, Britt ran into a former student there. We took the Muni to City Hall, checked in, filled out the paperwork, and were married in the rotunda near the bust of Harvey Milk. The ceremony lasted about 10 minutes, and partway through, I was so happy I burst out laughing. The officiant declared we were “partners for life,” and we kissed.
We emailed everyone we knew that evening to share the news. Everyone was ecstatic.
Legal Questions and Complications
That wasn’t the end of our marriage journey, though. Marriage equality had only reached a handful of states, and our home state of Florida wasn’t one of them. Our marriage wasn’t recognized by the federal government, either. In November, voters in both California and Florida said no to marriage equality and enshrined discrimination in their constitutions. (In California, it was eventually decided marriages done before Proposition 8 would not be annulled, but for a few weeks, Britt and I weren’t sure if we would still be married.)
Despite being married, we had the legal standing of roommates. This had real ramifications — for example, paying taxes on my MBA classes at UT, whereas an opposite-sex spouse would not. I don’t remember how much it cost to hire a lawyer to create the documents that would provide some of the legal protections that opposite-sex married couples get automatically.
At a car rental counter in Las Vegas in 2012, we were adding me as an additional driver, and Britt explained that there should be no charge because we were married. The woman behind the counter said, “Not in Nevada, you’re not.”
Our marriage status became something of a game when we traveled. When the plane landed, we’d say, “We’re married here!” or “We’re not married here.”
Society and the Courts Catch Up
Slowly but surely, two things began to happen. First, LGBT advocates began winning court cases that validated marriage equality as the law. Second, public opinion began moving in the right direction. Marriage equality spread from a few states to many. The federal government decided it could no longer stand by the abomination that was the Defense of Marriage Act.
In early 2015, marriage equality came to Florida despite the protestations of our deplorable attorney general, Pam Bondi. And in June 2015, Obergerfell made marriage equality the law of the land.
Today, I don’t give any thought to the fact that Britt and I are a same-sex married couple. Just as it never crossed our mind that we couldn’t get married in 2002, it seems inconceivable today that we wouldn’t be married.
And that, my friends, is why we celebrate our anniversary loudly.
Six years ago today, the Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges. It’s hard to describe to straight people exactly how momentous this was.
This passage is one of the most profound things I have ever read:
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”Justice Kennedy
I’ve seen a lot of diverse couples on teevee recently, especially in ads. This is amazing, I thought, because social change happens more quickly when people see examples of diversity in entertainment. In the ’90s, many people met their first gay friends on Will & Grace. Similarly, today, many people might be seeing their first diverse couples in detergent commercials. Positive portrayals precede progress.
It was only recently — in the past week or so — that I realized that the Complimentary Spouse and I are one of those diverse couples. It seems so obvious in hindsight, but it honestly didn’t dawn on me.
On a daily basis, I give virtually no thought to being part of a same-sex couple. It just doesn’t occur to me. Here’s what occupies my mind:
I wasn’t always this unmindful of being part of a same-sex couple. Britt and I met in 2002 and married in 2008. Things were much different back then. We were challenged at car rental counters when we tried to add me as a spouse to the rental agreement. We were given dirty looks when we got to hotel check-in desks and requested a room with a king-size bed. When we registered for wedding gifts, we were told at one high-end home furnishing store that we would have to register as a bride and groom because that’s how their computer system was configured. We walked out.1
These events, and hundreds more just like them, were constant reminders that we were different. As such, it was hard to forget that our relationship wasn’t like everyone else’s.
Today, it’s rare when someone reminds us that we’re unlike other couples. The other day, we were apart in Target, and a clerk asked me if he could help me find something. “Yes, my husband,” I said. Now that I’m thinking about these issues as I write this blog post, it’s possible to consider a statement like that to be political, declaratory, and assertive. But at the time, it was just a cute rejoinder.
The only time we’re treated differently as a same-sex couple is in restaurants when servers ask if we want one check or two. Do they ask opposite-sex couples wearing wedding rings if they prefer separate checks? Every single time? My hunch is no.2
Diverse couples on teevee represent a significant step forward for our society because they legitimize and destigmatize relationships that are, well, let’s face it, just as ordinary as mine. We can eventually get to a place where diverse couples are so mundane they don’t earn a second glance. And that, my friends, is an exciting prospect.
1 They called their corporate office, figured out a work-around, and tracked us down, so we did register there. Thanks for the plates, silverware, glasses, serving platters, and gravy boat, everyone!
2 When a server brings us a check without offering to split it, we automatically increase the tip.
All the news out of Washington, D.C., reminds me of the last trip the Complimentary Spouse and I took to the nation’s capital. We participated in the National Pride March and caught up with some friends and family members. Here’s a quick review:
While the 2017 trip to Washington was fun, it was also an act of resistance. The next trip won’t be. And that’s a reason to celebrate today.