Editors' note: Laura Matanah is the Publisher/Executive Director of Rainbow Rumpus, the online magazine for youth with LGBT parents.
What if the societal rights accompanying a legal marriage came in a vending machine? For a mere $10, you could select #1 (the right to transfer a transportation permit), #27 (the right to receive payments from a religious association after a spouse dies), or #515 (the guaranteed right to use your address on your driver's license even if your spouse is the one who owns the house).*
The problem, of course, would be how long you'd get to use that right and how the right would be returned. Would it expire after two weeks? Would you drop it off at the kiosk in the next airport? Could you keep it as long as you wanted but have to mail it back to get another?
Then there's the next problem: How would anyone know you had that right?
The other day a blond, buzz-cut young man in a suit and tie came to my door to drive me to a rental car agency--an agency that has a theoretically inclusive policy of allowing a person's domestic partner to be added to the rental contract without having to come into the office and for no additional charge. On the way to the office, he asked where I was going and with whom. I was traveling with my family, I said, mentioning my spouse Sarah, and our children, Da'Jon and Tajah. He then asked what I did for a living. I told him about Rainbow Rumpus--our literature and the impact of our work on young people and families.
After a bit, he told me about his gay cousin and his cousin's partner--who had been together for 15 years--how the cousin had been disowned by his father, and what a hard time the couple was having finding a baby to adopt. It was a shame, he said. They would be great parents, and at every family get-together he could see how hard it was on them to be around all the kids and still not have a child of their own. He couldn't wait to tell them about Rainbow Rumpus.
We arrived at the office, and he started to enter my license and credit card information. "Well," I thought to myself, "at least this time I know I won't get a hassle over listing Sarah on the contract." I'd brought Sarah's driver's license just in case, and I passed it across the counter to him.
"Here's my partner's license, so she can be included as a driver under your domestic partner policy," I said.
He nervously looked from one license to the next. "Do you have a civil union?" he asked. "I mean," he continued, craning his neck upwards from the licenses to briefly look at me before quickly turning his attention back to our IDs, "do you have some kind of legal relationship?"
My guess would be that this young man had just mastered talking around the time that Sarah and I got together. "She's my domestic partner," I enunciated, "and your company has a domestic partner policy that says she can be included."
He turned to his manager and, holding up the licenses, and started to explain. "Its OK," said the manager. "List her on the contract, and don't charge extra."
As I didn't want to be the only one driving through the rain, and managers in the past have decided differently, I was relieved. But I was also stunned that this young man, who'd just been portraying himself as an ally, would question our right to jointly rent a car.
The passage of marriage rights in Washington, DC, this year was a wonderful thing. While we wait to get such rights here in Minnesota, I'm thinking about starting a new company--one that provides rental rights. Those, I think, wouldn't be put to the test of a popular vote. Maybe I can get Rush Limbaugh to lend me the start-up money.
* To see a complete list of the five hundred and fifteen rights same sex couples cannot access in Minnesota visit www.project515.org.