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For now, Liz McGrail and I are legally married in Oregon. Our small but powerful ceremony took place last spring in my cousin’s living room in Portland, with Multnomah County Circuit Judge Merri Souther Wyatt officiating. Another circuit judge subsequently enjoined the county from issuing any further marriage licenses to same-sex couples but ruled that restricting marriage benefits to opposite-sex couples violates the Oregon Constitution. The judge further ordered the state to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples like us who already had obtained our licenses. This decision is not the final word on marriage in Oregon. A state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage will be on the ballot tomorrow, and the Oregon Supreme Court and the state legislature are likely to weigh in as well. We are cautiously hopeful that the anti-marriage amendment will go down in defeat. Even if it does, there is little chance that our marriage will have any discernible legal effect � either here in the District, where we live in a postage stamp of an apartment during the week, or in West Virginia, where we have a cabin to which we retreat on weekends. Indeed, from our perch on Columbia Road, N.W., we can see the dome of the Capitol, where our president first made his infamous promise to do his all to protect the “sanctity” of marriage by keeping people like us from tainting it. The District of Columbia, for its part, does not allow same-sex couples to wed, and even if the D.C. Council were to pass legislation to require recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, you can bet that Congress will have something to say about that. And you can all but forget West Virginia, which has a statutory provision against recognizing marriages like ours. Today, our marriage is legal only in Oregon, where Liz and I have spent a grand total of three days. Then why did we bother? Because when we read about the first same-sex marriage performed in San Francisco, we were moved in profound and unexpected ways. The couple, civil rights activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, had been together for 51 years when Mayor Gavin Newsom performed their ceremony at City Hall. The symbolism was not lost on the thousands of same-sex couples paying attention from sea to shining sea. Here was the government at last acknowledging that our committed relationships are as worthy of recognition, of celebration, and of benefits as their opposite-sex counterparts. This is a conviction we had long known in our hearts to be true, but it was easy to forget when every jurisdiction refused to marry us even as they promoted opposite-sex marriage at every turn. And while the California Supreme Court has since unmarried Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon along with more than 4,000 other same-sex couples who had wed in San Francisco, the battle for marriage equality is far from over in California. Hope remains that the court will ultimately rule in other pending cases that the statute on which it based the decision to void the San Francisco marriages violates the California Constitution. But back on Valentine’s Day, Del and Phyllis had only just tied the knot. In our living room, with Bette Midler (of course) singing her way to the chapel of love in the background, I proposed to Liz, and, to my great delight, she accepted. We settled on our anniversary, May 30, for the reception and initially had planned to have our ceremony in Massachusetts. We were concerned, however, about an old anti-miscegenation era statute that prohibits out-of-state residents from marrying in Massachusetts if their marriage would be void at home. (Sure enough, Gov. Mitt Romney dusted off that racist legal artifact to justify denying marriage licenses to out-of-state same-sex couples.) Injunctions abruptly had halted weddings in San Francisco and New Paltz, N.Y., before we could make our way to either place, but Multnomah County was still open for our business. We got there as quickly as we could. NUPTIAL NERVOUSNESS On the morning of our wedding, Liz and I suffered from pre-wedding jitters of a sort most brides do not experience. We feared another injunction � but none issued, at least not that day � and we obtained our marriage license without a hitch at the Multnomah County Municipal Building in downtown Portland. As we parked our rental car (at the astonishing rate of 95 cents per hour) in the garage across the street, two brides from Washington state were soaping “Just Married” on the back windshield of their SUV. We took a deep breath and entered the building without passing through a metal detector or being asked to show identification. Jerry, a volunteer from Basic Rights Oregon, a local gay civil rights group, greeted us just inside the door. He gave us a clipboard with the necessary forms, offered useful tips on their completion, and explained that he had married his partner of 30 years just the week before. So much for dry-eyed composure. After completing our license application, we stepped up to the window and handed in our forms along with the license fee � three crisp twenties I had obtained the day before from an Adams Morgan ATM. Moments later, the deputy clerk returned with our license, a big smile, and apparently sincere congratulations. We hugged Jerry, congratulated the other couples and their kids, retrieved our car for 95 cents, and went searching for breakfast and wedding rings. We were well on our way to the state of marriage and still hadn’t shown ID. We weren’t in the District of Columbia anymore. That afternoon, Judge Wyatt performed our wedding ceremony in the presence of my cousin, her husband, their two teenagers, the three other Oregonians we know, and my mother’s neighbor from New York who just happened to be visiting her Portland-dwelling son. Judge Wyatt started by asking us firmly, as judges do, to look at each other, not her, during the ceremony. Liz and I are both lawyers, trained to look raptly attentive whenever a judge speaks, and it was a real challenge for us not to look at Judge Wyatt when she addressed us directly. But we did as requested and saw only each other as the judge described marriage as the serious commitment of “taking another person in her entirety.” That was poetry to our ears, and not just because it gracefully avoided the awkward “his or her” formulation. (In this regard, officiants take note, same-sex weddings indisputably have an advantage over the other kind.) Judge Wyatt spoke of marriage as an institution that openly, naturally welcomed two women to join. She asked each of us if we would take the other as her spouse, to love her and share with her all that is to come, and to be faithful to her. We joyfully promised to do just that � it is what we had been doing for the last decade anyway. And then Judge Wyatt pronounced us � after a long pause in which we all wondered what in the world she was going to say � married. And so we were. Of course we were. Why shouldn’t we be? I have yet to hear an answer to that question that makes any sense to me. That is because I know, as do an increasing number of citizens, elected officials, and judges, that committed same-sex relationships deserve to be accorded the same exact legal status as committed opposite-sex relationships. We went to Portland to live that simple truth. We hope someday to live it here at home. Louise Zanar is a writer and of counsel at D.C.’s Katz & Ranzman.

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