A Stupid Drop-Down Menu

- a guest post by Katie, who works in Anchorage

Yesterday, my co-worker was helping a bunch of new-hires set up their HR information in our electronic system. On the first page with social security number and name is the married or single box. I hate that box. I hate it. She had her information up on the screen for demonstration purposes, and casually said, "Oh, I guess I'm not married any more." It's amazing how much this little phrase and that little box have been bugging me ever since then.

My stupid little box says "single." It doesn't matter that I have a document hanging on my wall, the first thing you see when you walk in the house, that says I am committed to one person for the rest of my life. It doesn't matter that my employer would let me offer benefits to her if I wanted to pay taxes on them. My same employer that would let me take out benefits on her still forces me to choose "single" or "married." I am not married under federal law. I am not single under Vermont law.

On top of the law, there are my personal thoughts of my relationship. In my mind, I have not been single for 12 years. Even if a person starts counting the years from the day we swore our vows to each other in front of our friends and family, then in front of a state judge, I have not been single for 9 years.

The "gay marriage debate" makes a lot of people feel very passionately. The polls and the politicians say that most people feel that me having the status of "married" infringes on THEIR rights. I just don't understand. Matrimony is a religious word. Marriage is not. "Married" is a status that I stare at, yet feel like I cannot chose from a stupid drop-down menu. So I sit in no-where-land. I sit here, trying not to infringe on someone else's rights, meanwhile ignoring my own. Do I not have the right to pick something from this stupid drop-down menu that doesn't make me feel like 12 years don't matter? Do I not have the right to be married to someone instead of no one?

I know there are hundreds of other financial, political, social, and moral reasons for me to be in on this debate. There are hundreds of reasons I should be out marching for everyone else in my situation. There are hundreds of reasons I should be sitting here fuming, and writing my thoughts down. However, I think it must be a sign, that something so trivial as a stupid drop-down menu makes me feel like I don't have the same rights as a straight person who "forgot" to change her status from "married" to "single." The straight person who was only "married" for 3 years, and ended the relationship on a matter of not caring, and her status was changed back to "single" with nothing more than a signature on a line. I had to drive to Vermont to take my vows in front of someone I barely knew, to change my status in the eyes of ONE state's law. If I want to change my status back, I would have to move to Vermont for a year, before I would be allowed to sign that line. I have no desire to sign that line. I do, however, have the desire to pick something other than "single" from that stupid drop-down menu.

Some friends of ours have marriage licenses and civil unions from every state that has a law on the books. Every time a new state passes a new law, they go there, and swear their vows again. Why? Because the federal government still says that they must choose the "single" category. They have 7 marriage licenses, and 8 Civil Union licenses. 15 licenses, but yet if they lived where we do, the 15 licenses are constitutionally illegal.

I keep telling myself that eventually times will change. Only 30 years ago, the thought of being able to get health insurance through my employer for my partner was considered pretty obscure. In 30 years, we've made progress. Not long ago, people of different ethnicities could not get married. The arguments said, "If we allow white people and black people to marry, gay people will want to get married too." What does that mean? Does that mean that we should back-track? Stop Catholics from marrying Protestants? Stop Japanese people from marrying Irish people? Why is progress toward an equal society bad?

Why do I feel so strongly about a stupid drop-down box?

Think about it. What would you do, if you didn't feel like you fit into the categories given? The US government forces me to chose a category that I don't think I belong to. How would you feel?

Until I figure this out, I will continue to hate this stupid drop-down box.


jay in uk said...

Dear Katie and all of you in Alaska.

It's good we care. It's good to let others know we care. Just as our work as LGBT folk was letting others know we existed in the past, now it's to let others know civil marriage matters to us.

When Gene and I started our effort to bring this inequality to the courts back in the late 80s, there was no national support, no help to be found in Alaska anywere. It took us six years to find an attorney to represent us. It's quite a story.

We now see this effort to be included as legal family all across the world. It is now a movement that opponents cannot stop. We matter. Our families matter.

As I do genealogy work for a family reunion in Minnesota next year, I am struck by the assumptions of biology, of heterosexual union (Mormons are huge in this field, after all). We, as gay folk just aren't contemplated. Not at all. So as I speak to long separated family members rediscovered, I hold from telling them of my marriage to Gene.

Why? Because I don't wish to risk losing a source for family research that each relation means. I know that I could be rejected. I know my spouse won't be seen as my spouse by too many.

There is work to be done. All around the world, marriage bonds families and transforms the connection our partners have to us to become a legal and cultural fact in our family's lives.

It is important. It is not only about who we love. It is also about who defines our family.

There is so much to do, but Gene and I couldn't be more proud of all of us as we struggle to love openly, with our friends and the families we demand to be part of--whether we like them or not! Families are, after all, a piece of work.

Blessings on all our houses.

Jay AND Gene Dugan-Brause, London, UK

Anonymous said...

The comments from both of you uplift me. Thank you for putting your experiences down on paper for all of us to share.
P.S. Are your HR folks oblivious or deliberate in this limited choice on the menu? If the drop-down menu only gave me two choices and I felt as you do in your situation, I would probably choose "married" and create a flurry among the bean counters. Will a kick in the pants wake them up even a little?

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