By: Carol Rood
New York is the latest state to support same-gender marriage. That makes eight states that allow same-sex marriage, two states that recognize same-gender marriages from other states, five states that allow civil unions, four states that grant nearly all state-level spousal rights to unmarried couples, and four states that provide some state-level spousal rights to unmarried couples (domestic partnerships).
New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, DC, and Massachusetts are all on the East Coast, where I live. I live in Virginia. If New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware allow same-gender marriage, how long before Virginia starts to feel the heat to follow suit? This is something I think about frequently.
I think about it for different reasons than many others would.
I have many thoughts on this matter. As a matter of fact, when I went on vacation last week to visit my mother in Kissimmee Florida, she asked me what my thoughts were on gay marriage. My mother is very aware that I am in a same-gender relationship, and is NOT homophobic in the least, but she doesn’t really understand it. She is 72 and comes from a different era than I. It does not bother me at all that she does not understand, and is a little reluctant to meet K. The fact that she is accepting of me, and loves me anyway, is all that matters.
So in June when New York voted to allow same-gender marriages, it caused another uncomfortable discussion about K and me getting married. Quite a few of my friends said that we should rush up to New York and do it. We could take a mini vacation to the Big Apple, have a great time, and while we were there we could get hitched. I just laughed it off and said, “Oh no, there is no way we could do that, the kids are home for the summer…K doesn’t have enough vacation time…we start college in a few weeks…” I used a different excuse each time.
But when my mother asked me about it, I had to delve deep into my own thoughts and really think about why I don’t want to get married.
I do not want to marry K. At least not right now. I have reasons for this decision, all of which are valid, but I am loathe to tell this to my gay friends. It is like I am somehow less gay because I don’t want to rush off and get married just because it is legal. Or that I am snubbing the gay rights movement because I am not willing to participate in a wedding. That my decision is a slap in the face to those who have “fought so hard” to get the votes to make same-gender marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships legal. I wonder if there are other people like me (and K who agrees with me completely) out there. People who don’t necessarily want to get married just because they can, legally.
I am a divorced woman with two kids. Just for tax reasons I don’t want to get married. K is also a divorced woman with kids. We can both file as “head of household” and get a pretty nice refund back each year based upon our exemptions, deductions, etc. I also am an independent contractor for a dermatologist, and we each have our own 401Ks plus an annuity plan we own together. We co-own a house. The money we would lose every year if we had to change from two people filing HOH to two people filing as a married couple would be a big deal. Our taxes would go from being a pretty simple affair to quite complicated. We could possibly lose some child support income as well. So from merely a financial standpoint it behooves us to stay single.
Like I mentioned, we both have children. They were born into a standard heterosexual family, and they spent their young lives living with a mommy and a daddy. The reasons we became divorced had nothing to do with each other, but everything to do with marriages that failed. When we chose to be together it was after many agonizing talks about our children. Would they be okay with it? Would we have to fight our ex-husbands for custody? Would they try to take our children? My decision to be with K was mine. I did not ask my children what they would prefer, and I have tried to be respectful of their feelings regarding it. K has done the same. We have told our children that they don’t have to like it, but they have to respect the other adult in the house.
I will not get married while my children live at home. I let my kids choose how they describe K to their peers. They might call her their mom’s “friend”, they may say “partner”; I don’t know because I stay out of it. We do not live in DC, or New York, or LA where being gay is acceptable, or even fashionable. We live in a very conservative part of Virginia. I will not knowingly put my kids in a position to feel that they are treated differently because of the adults who live in their home. You may not agree with that, but I feel it is important to allow my kids to decide for themselves how they want to describe their family. I will say they are much more comfortable now with our family than they were even as recently as two years ago. They call each other “brother” publicly. That is a step in the right direction.
Keep in mind that there are many, many heterosexual couples who never say marriage vows either. Just because they can get married doesn’t force them into a position where they feel obligated to. Neither should a gay couple feel obligated to get married just because they can legally. Let’s face it, if the gay community looks down on me because I choose not to get married, then isn’t that another form of discrimination?