I remember that the first time I cried was when I saw that our County Clerk, who has been trying to marry gay people since the idea was first introduced, and has managed to get a few through during narrow windows, was starting to issue licenses. I'm pretty sure I made a sound that the cube farmers around me heard. Oh, well. I was very emotional.
Rob called. He and Syd were on the way to a store that specializes in flags. He had called and put a rainbow flag on hold. This is the call where I asked him to marry me. I think I actually said "Do you want to go down there?". So unromantic. Because it was understood. We both knew we would be going soon, but yesterday was hot and it was already late in the day to be waiting outside for anything, even something as important as marriage. The pictures of the clerks office on the news looked like there was a long line outside the building so he was going up there to see how long the line really was, and call me if I should come up and join him.
Rob's next call was to say that when they got to the flag store, the City of Austin was trying to find a rainbow flag to fly at City Hall, and Rob had the last one on hold. And, would he mind giving it up to the City for them to fly. He even got to talk to the city official who offered to try to get it back to Rob when it comes down. No promises, but he'd try. Rob was on cloud 9. We decided to meet for lunch at the best burger place in town and while we were there, sitting in a crowded restaurant, we talked about the practical aspects of getting married while Sydney munched her burger and pretended that she wasn't listening. We talked about our finances and what getting married meant, and what it didn't mean. And, we talked about the practicality of trying to do it on the first day, and the danger of waiting. In the end, after much going back and forth, Rob asked what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to go down there. And, Sydney rolled her eyes and said "finally". She gets impatient when we take our time to make a big decision.
When Austin offered domestic partnership for a short time before some turd-head put the stop to that, we didn't go down. And, when Austin offered marriage licenses that were later invalidated, we didn't go down. This time, I wanted to be there on the first day. Even if there was a chance of violence and protest. Actually, especially if there was protest, not to protest back, but to defy that protest and empower others to defy it as well.
We went home and changed into shorts for the potentially long wait outside. And, then we drove across town to the clerks office. It took an hour to get there. A very long and frustrating hour... oh, what an idiot I was to try to give directions...
When we got there, the parking lot was full and we had to park a good distance from the door. We got out of the truck and walked up to the end of the line.
I asked "Is this the end of the line, and did you need to sign up someplace?". And, they said "We're not in line. We're here to celebrate your day with you! Go around us to the door and go on in.". And, they did cheer for us as we walked past. And. oh God was it hot. But, I'll bet there were 35 people standing there, in the heat, for one purpose, and that was to support us, and others like us. I actually got the feeling that if there was trouble, they were there to handle it.
And, I'm weeping again. I guess you had to be there. Or maybe not.
We got inside and were directed to a huge conference room that would have easily held 250 people, except the person that arranged the chairs must have been gay because they set the place up in a circle instead of straight lines. And, on one side of the circle was the State Seal of Texas on the wall and the American flag and the Texas flag. And, about 100 people were waiting. Our number was 137.
They asked us at the door whether we wanted a formal marriage or an informal one. Okay, kid at the buffet moment, y'all. Shall I have the chicken, or the beef? We didn't know. They asked whether we wanted to leave married, or whether we wanted to get a license and wait 72 hours. We wanted to leave married.
It was a good thing we had that two and a half hour wait, because we learned a lot about marriage. I heard one lady say that informal marriage isn't recognized in all 50 states, so we checked into that and changed our minds and wanted a formal marriage. Then, the sweet and funny lady that was making announcements told everyone that if we wanted both, we could have both, and leave married and get the formal marriage later. Her quote was "I'll take your money, honey. We'll do whatever you want". So, we decided to do both.
That sweet lady did a great job of keeping us informed. She was the one calling numbers, and she was the one that came to the center of the room, called us to attention, and made announcements about how to avoid the 72 hour waiting period, which judges were doing marriages that afternoon, which judges had just announced they were staying late to marry people, how much it cost... any question that she got too often, she gave the answer to the whole room. And, she did it with flair, curtseying and spinning around and smiling and laughing. And, every time she talked about marriage, she ended with the same phrase..." and then you're married and you go "take care of your business"", which drew laughs from the crowd.
The first number we heard them call was 98. 39 people ahead of us. And, the crowd grew. Where there were empty seats when we got there, it was standing room only when we left.
The crowd was varied. There were kids in their 20's and people in their late 60's. There were mothers with infants and teenagers like Sydney, and people in shorts and people dressed up, and people carrying flowers and balloons and laughing and talking. Couples who brought their parents to witness the big day. And, couples who clearly knew no one else in the room and huddled together, waiting their turn. And, every time they called out a number and the couple stood up to leave the room and go to the clerks office, we cheered for them. Now, you're thinking this was a bunch of gay people cheering for gay people, right? But, there were straight people there, too. Just like there would be any other day. There to get a marriage license and they waited in line, too. And, when their numbers got called and they left the room, we all cheered for them too. And, despite all the cheering and happy applause, there was tension in the room, too. Thick. This was people making life altering choices and they knew it. And, they were ready to do it anyway. Oh, sure there were the ones there because they wanted to be first. But, there were couples who had real commitments that they wanted to acknowledge, to themselves, and to the world. Couples who held hands and didn't talk, and waited quietly, looking into space, like they were seeing a different future. And, despite the smiles and cheers, they (and we) were taking it serious.
Almost all the gay couples were coming back to the room to have pictures taken in front of the state seal, holding their license up. And, when they did, we cheered them again, and laughed and cried at their proud family photos. Babies squirmed and toddlers ran around, and teenagers hugged their Moms and cried. Old couples held fast to one another, and young couples pulled faces and mugged the camera. And, the crowd cheered and cried; and cheered and cried. And, two of the straight couples were brave enough to come back into that crowd again and take their pictures. And, we cheered for them. As one couple was leaving, I heard the man say to his new wife, "now we're going to 'take care of our business'.". And, everyone that heard him laughed. He was pretty cool about it all.
Finally, our number was called and we were cheered as we left the room and were taken to the clerks office.
And, more questions.
The first license in my hot little hand.
I got listed first, but only because my name has a suffix, and the only space on the application for a suffix is under the section titled MAN. Sorry, just had to throw that one in.
And, then we went back to the waiting room for our photo.
And, the crowd cheered.
And, when we left the building, the crowd outside cheered and people took pictures of our family and our license and gave us flowers and offered champagne and blew bubbles. And, I wept all the way to the truck.
So, marriage is generally followed by a big marriage dinner, right? So we went to our favorite family friendly Mexican restaurant and had margaritas and Enchiladas and celebrated our big day. Together. As family.
Now, anybody that thinks we missed out on anything because we were in short pants and because our families and friends weren't there and because there wasn't a big reception should know that we've been winging this whole relationship thing in our own way since we started, 15 years ago. And, that's what we did yesterday, too. No one could be happier, or more proud. If it had cost ten thousand dollars, it could not have reflected our family more perfectly.
Everybody have a great Saturday. We're still riding the adrenaline rush. Lane