Iowa's Gay Marriage Ruling

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"Marriage is something I knew in my heart we deserved" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lori Blachford   
Saturday, 04 April 2009 05:05

Lori Blachford, 44, is an assistant professor at Drake University in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She and her partner, Karen, have lived a “married” life for 25 years. This summer they plan to drop those quote marks.

For 25 years, I’ve had a life partner. Today, I won the right to have a wife. I’ve been asking myself all day why that matters so much to me.

Karen and I weren’t legally married, but we lived that life from day one. We’ve raised two fine sons. We have a dog, two cats, a mortgage, jobs and two sump pumps in the basement. We fuss over finances and the rate at which our boys outgrow their shoes. We vote in every election. We love our neighbors. We root for the Cubs. We’re pretty darn ordinary.

But while we may have been playing the part with style, we didn’t have any of the legal protections that come with marriage. If I die, Karen doesn’t get any of my Social Security benefits. She would have to pay estate tax on our shared properties. If I don’t die but just get maimed a little, she couldn’t make medical decisions on my behalf at the hospital—they would call my mom instead. And those are just a few of the inequities we faced.

Still, I had really taken the possibility of marriage equality in Iowa off my wish list. I just didn’t think it was going to happen in my lifetime. I mean if California can’t make a go of it, what hope did we have?

Marriage is something I knew in my heart we deserved, something we’d earned by playing by the rules and by taking our “marriage” seriously. We’ve outlasted many heterosexual couples we know, and don’t even get me started on some of these “I do; oh, forget it” celebrity unions we’ve had to endure.

So today was a major surprise. When I heard yesterday that a ruling was expected, I really felt confident it would be in our favor, but I didn’t really believe. How could I? The disappointment and having to explain why it happened to my sons was just too daunting.

I had to pretend it really didn’t mean that much to me. But it did. When I heard the decision, I blubbered like I did when the kids were born, that uncontrollable release of all the pent up worry and elation that’s churning just below the surface. It was grand.

The first things I’ll do as a married woman:

1.Make a doctor’s appointment so I can mark the married box without feeling compelled to write a long explanation of why I’ve marked that box instead of “single” and why all who are involved with processing this particular paperwork ought to support marriage equality. Receptionists all across Des Moines will rejoice.

2.Go out to eat and then educate the waiter when he asks, “Will this be separate checks?” How many married couples and their children get that question?

3.Sign up for every family membership in town.

4.Get a family benefits package instead of a family plan and a single.

5.Push to get any paperwork that still asks for parent information with “Mother” and “Father” changed statewide. How about we just agree on “Parent”?