We, just yesterday, received our certificate of marriage in the mail from the state of California.
Now we have three such certificates (or four depending upon how you count them), and, while I do enjoy weddings, I hope this will be the end of our collection.
The first one is our certificate of Holy Union from the Unitarian church that conducted our wedding. It's not nearly a legal document. It's smaller than the rest, and a bit sun bleached. Nevertheless, it's the one I'd grab if the house was on fire (and the kids, Rob, and my hard drive with all our photographs on it were already safe... and the dog too).
After that there's the License and Certificate of Marriage from the city and country of San Francisco. In this one, the printing goes off into the embossed border. In the Mayor of San Francisco's haste of political disobedience in the service of justice (or socially eroding act of anarchy, depending on your politics) they were printing the official certificates on the spot, as there was the feeling they would be shut down at any moment. I like this one for the memories of the time more than it's effect; I knew it had a good chance of not lasting in legality. We left the boys with their grandparents and that ended up being one romantic day-long date, before we hurried home.
Now we have this new 8.5 X 11 piece of paper, a Certificate of Marriage from the country of San Diego. It's printed correctly, and it's legal. Our names are there, along with our parent's names and it's signed by the county clerk. With it, we could move to California again, and have our family treated justly, as family. Rob could get on my health insurance. We could stop shuttling money in the small legal increments between us so as to eventually get our boys the same inheritance rights other kids would get. We could live without legal threat in our home zoned for "single families". All this could be fixed (with regard to state law, if not federal), if only we left Utah... and our extended family and all the familiarity and what we love about this state. That's what this paper represents, and I guess it's a bit bitter sweet now that I'm thinking on it. It's far more sweet than bitter though; it's far more of an option than we had and one we could use in a prolonged medical emergency. We just have to do all we can to keep Proposition 8 from annulling us again.
It's funny how that series of letters, "Marriage", that appears only once in this document, causes so many people such grief and righteous indignation. By most all evidence, the weather of vocabulary has already pushed the front lines here well past those aiming to demean same-sex unions. Most Americans know familial sacrifice, dedication, mutual care and love define the best aspects meant in the syllables of "marriage". The rest of the fighting is merely insults about who's ideal, and who's children deserve different parents, and whose God disapproves of whose family. They're seemingly entrenched to keep same-sex couples from reaching the actuality of the word, not to keep a word from changing meaning, as all words do and with no conscious control.
It's funny also how bureaucratically important these little flammable records of the inflammable bonds of family are. Something could even happen to Rob or me, but the past is still the past, and a union of human souls and human families is still a union. It's one of the most indelible and echoing connections engraved in that metal of the past. Still, I suppose the government needs their papers and the people their politics.