A Small Step Forward For Gay Wedding-Kind In South Africa; A Giant Leap Sideways For Kathryn In Arlington County

I had to do some paperwork for our business today, which involved me heading down to the County Courthouse in Arlington, VA. Though I find tending to the paper trail to be tiresome at times, I generally enjoy my walk from my office to our Courthouse — I think it’s something about staying touch with civic-oriented habits which haven’t changed all that much in the last century (except that I can read what I need to know online rather than dialing repeatedly to find the right person in the right department).
Interestingly, the paperwork I was filing needed to be done at the same counter where marriage licenses are requested.
As I sat at a nearby counter, filling out my forms, a deliriously happy twenty-something, heterosexual couple (and a male friend) came along to file their paperwork for a wedding on Saturday. In my first moments of listening in to their request for a license, I was amused and taken by their happiness.
I did, of course, feel a moment of jealousy to think that, though I could sit nearby, admire my wedding band, think wistfully of my partner, and file paperwork on behalf of a gay-friendly business, I was unable to step up to the counter ask request the very same license and rights.
The couple continued to act giddy and nervous and made some comments wondering about filling out the paperwork correctly and being able to actually get the license (a posted sign suggested that they only needed to be sure to have $30 cash instead of a check for all to go smoothly), when the desk clerk said that she could get them a license, no problem, no matter what, and they all laughed. My sense was the desk clerk had seen this kind of behavior before.
The couple continued to behave in a silly manner, bordering at points, I thought, on immaturity (yes, I admit it; I began to judge them) and filled out the form while talking and saying things that made me think to myself, “I can’t believe these two can get a license and my partner and I can’t!”
Clearly, I was asking for it from the Universe.
Not even a moment later, the desk clerk then said something to the effect that, of course she could get them the license, but — she gestured over to the groom and his male friend — “I can’t do one for you two.”
Now they laughed even harder and louder. A laugh which made me blanche, because it felt like a joke made at my expense — even though, in their defense, they had no idea that I was sitting there filling out a form for a web site called GayWeddings.com and that I identified as half of a gay couple who recognizes what a privilege it is to have access to this legal process since we don’t yet have the right.
“What should I say?,” I thought.
This is one of those moments when it’s best to say something, rather than nothing. I just needed to figure out how to be humorous and clever about it so as to make a point without making anyone uncomfortable. Huffiness never takes one far. Nor does silence. Believe me, I know. I’ve tried both.
So, while pretending to be only casually invested in the fun since I was so busy filling out the paperwork, I said, with as much genuine kindness as I could muster, “I am looking forward to when that day comes!”
I think my comment surprised them, but the desk clerk didn’t miss a beat. She just said something like, “That time hasn’t come yet,” and they all laughed again.
There was certainly enough nervous energy in the room to fuel all of that laughing, as this young couple really seemed to understand how “easy” and how fun it was to sign a piece of paper saying that they would be legally-beholden to each other.
And, I couldn’t tell what the desk clerk meant in her reply. She didn’t seem particularly for or against the idea of issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples in Virginia.
She just said it as a simple truth. That time hasn’t come yet.
I will admit that I still feel a bit dinged by the laughter.
In the end, though, I feel uplifted by the simple addition of a word which means a lot to me: Yet.

One thought on “A Small Step Forward For Gay Wedding-Kind In South Africa; A Giant Leap Sideways For Kathryn In Arlington County

  1. Hey Katheryn,
    “Enjoyed” your article isn’t quite the right word for what sounds like somewhat of a painful encounter, but did gain a little insight into your life. Here’s hoping you can sign up for a laminated certificate of marriage in Arlington real soon.
    I started writing for fodder this week: thanks for hooking me up with this, it could be a lot of fun.
    cousin jeff

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