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How the Fight for Marriage Rights Is Strengthening My Relationship

The fight for marriage rights is a roller coaster. Of love.

It was just another Tuesday morning at work when I got an uncharacteristically large number of text messages from my boyfriend. At 10:05 a.m.: “OMG…Prop 8” followed by “Has been shut down!!!” with a bunch of excited smiley faces and hearts.

I’m sure that level of enthusiasm was the general consensus among thousands of gay and lesbian men and women across the country on February 7, 2012. The fight for marriage equality in California took a giant leap forward. In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found Proposition 8 unconstitutional, putting to rest a trial that has gone on for months.

I have been with my partner (or boyfriend, if you will) for more than five years. We started dating in 2006, before same-sex marriage was a legal possibility in California. It was just not something we allowed ourselves to ponder. Next thing we knew, Prop 8 had made its way onto the 2008 ballot, threatening a state constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex marriage. And it has been an emotional roller coaster ever since.

For months leading up to the election, I worked on the No on Prop 8 campaign. When the measure passed, it was one of the most difficult weeks of my life. Jesse drove to my house late at night because he wanted to be there for me, knowing I needed the consolation. “I worked so hard for this, it meant so much to me, and we lost,” was the first thing I remember saying, with tears in my eyes. He was someone I could break down to.

The passing of Prop 8 in 2008, and the subsequent legal proceedings, have exhausted us. The marriage debate made us examine “domestic partnerships” and “civil unions” at age 25, only to realize it isn’t enough for us. Five years into our relationship, the thought of marriage is still overwhelming. It is not something we would rush into. Simply having the option to marry is more important to us.

Many opponents argue that civil unions and domestic partnerships should be enough. For some, they may be. However, our country desperately needs to understand that the gay community will not be forced back into an underground subculture. Allowing us to get our hands on that little piece of paper essentially validates our community (and relationships) in the eyes of the masses. And in the eyes of our families—my boyfriend's parents do not acknowledge that he is in a relationship with a man. Marriage is a society-wide message that says “we exist,” and we are capable of forming long-lasting, loving relationships. Everyone may not agree with that message, but they will have to accept it as law. (Some people, of course, are more than ready to accept it: My step-mom is ready to help plan our wedding. She is more thrilled at the idea than we are. We aren’t even engaged.)

With yesterday’s federal appeals court ruling, we are still in a place of anxious uncertainty. Legal analysts are saying that the way the ruling was written makes it extremely unlikely that the U.S. Supreme Court will review it. This could be good news for same-sex marriage supporters, as the Supreme Court has a conservative majority. The backers of Prop 8 have vowed to appeal the ruling. However, if the Supreme Court does not review it, California would become the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage.

My boyfriend and I get bogged down in the ups and downs of this debate. But the same time, it has made our relationship stronger. I’ve had friends say love cannot be defined, because it involves an array of emotions and euphoric feelings. It’s true, my love for my boyfriend simply cannot be defined. I vow to spend my life with him, regardless of whether a piece of paper one day “validates” our commitment.

This is, after all, a love story. And, as cheesy as it sounds, I am just looking for a happy ending.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Bonilla.

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