It was Tuesday, May 20. We were about to get out of the car to explore a new thrift store in Rehoboth Beach when my Twitter stream went crazy. U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones 3d had found Pennsylvania’s ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional.
My brother called, then texted the news when I didn’t answer.
In the middle of that thrift store, using my phone, I scrolled through the posts on Twitter in elation...and disbelief.
“We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the trash heap of history,” Judge Jones wrote in his elegant opinion.
Then, on Wednesday, Governor Corbett announced, “I have decided not to appeal Judge Jones’ decision.”
On Thursday, May 29, we went to Philadelphia City Hall and applied for a marriage license. There were two straight couples and us. No one looked twice at us.
The clerk in his blasé manner asked us the usual ordinary questions: What’s your mother’s name? Her occupation? Where was she born? do you live together? Do you have a communicable disease?
This is what equality feels like, I thought.
When the he referred to Stanley as my “fiancé” I smiled, startled, realizing that what we had considered a marriage for seventeen years was now, thanks to twenty-six plaintiffs and a singular judge, in reality, a really long engagement. I briefly toyed with the idea of asking if the 3-day waiting period could be waived; after seventeen years, we’d waited long enough. We were sure.
I’ve always maintained that the inability to marry didn’t matter, arguing that the inability to marry had not kept us from falling in love, had not kept us from building a life together. It was just a piece of paper, after all.
When we got home, we took the license out of its envelope and stared at it. Unexpectedly, Stanley hugged me. “I love you,” he mumbled.
In that moment, in his arms, his whispered words hot on my ear, looking at that piece of paper spread on the table, knowing we could get married in three days, I realized it matters. That “piece of paper” matters. It matters a great deal.