The rental car guy made me cry yesterday.
It’s strange what does it these days. I’ve always been pretty quick to tears anyway but the triggers have obviously shifted. Honestly, I can’t even tell if it’s hope or hopelessness rolling around inside of me that’s got me all worked up and weeping. Either way, it’s clear that the quest to have my marriage recognized here—in the land of the free and home of the brave—has broken me wide open and people like rental car guy can now move me to tears.
My wife and I drive old, beat down cars. While my Jetta needs some work, her car is far more beat down. Every time it crosses my mind, my stomach churns with the reality that we could be sharing a single old, beat down car soon, like this afternoon or next Tuesday soon. She’s a senior at a local university preparing for law school and I am a life coach with a growing but still very young business. I also have a part time job… as a writer. Enough said, right?
There’s also a long, probably unnecessary story about her work-related injury, the lost battle for worker’s compensation from the government agency which employed her, and the pain and limited mobility that she continues to deal with every single day. I will spare you those details but if any of this sounds familiar to you, then you know that going out to pick up a new car isn’t an option at this point.
We were unconvinced that either of our cars could make the two road trips we planned to make this summer but were willing to try. A very kind and generous relative offered to pay for us to rent a car both times and the aforementioned wife found a super deal through Budget and made a reservation in my name. When we went to pick it up, the rental car guy in question asked if there would be any additional drivers. I pointed to my driver of choice and said, “Yes, she will be driving too.”
It turns out there is a charge for extra drivers. This fee is waived for spouses. Well… it always comes back to that, doesn’t it? Damn. It. America.
I’ve been sharing my driving responsibilities with this woman for four years. We live in her house. She is co-parenting my children from a previous marriage (to a man, their father, with whom I could no doubt get a spousal waiver of the extra driver fee). We share our money, as well as the strain when there isn’t enough. We are one another’s biggest fans. We plan to spend the rest of our days together. We are a family.
One year ago this week, we were married in a courthouse in Washington, DC. This means we are married. Married. Spouses. Not gay married. Not lesbian spouses. We are married.
Of course, none of this matters because we live in Tennessee.
So, when rental car guy said that there was a spousal exception to the extra driver fee, I (perhaps a little too gleefully) exclaimed, “That’s great because we are spouses!” My wife explained that we didn’t have a copy of our legal marriage license with us but that we had one. He grinned and settled for us having the same address on our driver’s licenses, although he wondered aloud about why we didn’t have the same last name. He didn’t care, it seemed, but was just curious and (more importantly to me) comfortable enough with us to wonder about it aloud. We explained our reasons. It was lovely. We got our extra driver fee waived, loaded up the offspring and headed west to the my family’s reunion in Estes Park, Colorado.
So, back to my tears… the second trip was to Wisconsin to see my wife’s family. Yesterday, we returned to the same Budget car rental location in downtown Nashville to give back the second rental car. As always, it seems, rental car guy was there. He said, “I was just talking about you guys the other day.” As the story goes, a pair of boys or girls (I’m not sure which) came in to rent a car. They are legally married (in one of the handful of places that same-sex couples can be married in this country) but lived in Nashville. He told them about us, about how he learned from our conversation that our Washington, DC, marriage didn’t count in Tennessee, and delivered the news that they qualified for the spousal waiver of the extra driver fee. They were excited (and it sounds like visually moved) because, “this was the first time in Tennessee that anyone said their marriage counts.”
The story made me cry. I cried because I know what it’s like to have your marriage not count.
I cried because my wife is currently uninsured, as only “spouses” qualify for coverage through my insurance… and in Tennessee, we’re not spouses. Two months ago, I had to take my uninsured wife to the ER for an x-ray to see if her ankle was broken or sprained. It wasn’t broken but two months later, it’s still not healed. It sounds, from our research, as if she ruptured one or more of the tendons. The next step is an MRI and most likely surgery will be necessary to fix the problem. We’re working to gather the resources to make that happen, plus a long overdue follow-up breast exam (yes, I’m serious). The whole thing makes me want to cry.
Those equality tears are close to the surface and were easy to retrieve when I heard that something we did resulted in another family hearing, “Your marriage matters.” It’s the relief, I suppose, anytime that someone gets it. We are the same. WE ARE THE SAME! We rent cars and hurt ankles and raise high-quality children and have crisis and it’s not one bit different from the everyday lives of opposite-sex couples.
That sounds so strange, doesn’t it? Opposite-sex couples. Who says that? Well, that’s the problem. They are just couples. We are just a couple. Blah, blah, blah… all of this has been said before and yet, here we are, STILL.
Last night, after I put myself back together, I saw on CNN.com that the American Psychological Association has declared support for “full marriage equality.”
The scientific and professional organization’s guiding body voted unanimously at its annual meeting this week in Washington to declare its support for “full marriage equality for same-sex couples.”
The resolution “clarifies the Association’s support for same-sex marriage” in light of new research, the group said. A similar resolution in 2004 opposed discrimination against same-sex relationships, but refrained from a more formal policy recommendation.
Dr. Clinton Anderson, APA associate executive director, said that the timing of the resolution is an indirect result of several states’ legalization of marriage.
“We knew that marriage benefits heterosexual people in very significant ways, but we didn’t know if that would be true for same-sex couples,” said Anderson, who is also director of the APA’s Office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns.
Now that six U.S. states permit same-sex marriage, researchers have been able to conduct studies with those couples.
The research, Anderson said, indicates that marriage “does confer the same sense of security, support, and validation” to same-sex couples as to heterosexual ones.
The resolution also points to evidence that ongoing political debate about marriage creates stress for gay men and lesbians and perpetuates stigmas and prejudice about their communities. This stress can make people physically and psychologically sick, the APA says, calling the link between stress and illness “well established.”
Again, with the tears…
It’s not that I needed them to validate me, my relationship, or even my marriage. It’s not even that I think the APA’s recommendation will miraculously awaken the good in all of those who believe two vaginas make not a legitimate marriage. These tears aren’t even about anger (most of the time at least).
It feels like a thousand stones of varying sizes and shapes were somehow abandoned in the street between where we are right now and equal rights for the members of the LGBTQ community. Equality-minded people have been working on that pile for decades, literally. And today, I’m thrilled to say, there are more of us doing more than ever to move that pile of stones. Every single one lightens the load, bringing us closer to equality.
It’s the family member who says, I love you no matter what.
It’s the friend who stands up to a bully at school.
It’s the employers who extend benefits to same-sex couples.
It’s the car rental guy with the support of his company (Thank you, Budget.) who extends the spousal waiver of the extra driver fee, even in a state where fear-fueled homophobia continues to touch all areas of our lives.
It’s the manager at AAA who calls you back to correct the customer service rep who told you that your wife has to get her own AAA membership.
It’s the ER nurse who treats you like a spouse so you can support the woman you love when she’s weeping because she’s in pain.
It all counts. Every single stone. Just grab one and toss it out of the way. Soon, they’ll all be gone and this country will be able to live fully into her majestic potential.
Image Credit: -Marlith- via Flickr