It was Monday morning and it was the first day the Johnson County Recorder's office in Iowa City, Iowa was open on our recent trip home. The previous visit home in April 2009, we stopped by the Recorder's office to pick up an application for a marriage license. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously that morning that the Iowa Constitution's equal protection clause applied to gays and lesbians. 30 days from their ruling, our families were finally given equal treatment under Iowa state law. Gays and lesbians could legally marry.
The form we picked up in April 2009 still said bride and groom. We flipped a coin. I called heads and won, so I wrote my name under the groom section. He wrote his under bride. We both laughed.
Iowa updated their form shortly after their visit. It now has three options for couples, "bride, groom, and spouse." Gender is a blank space and is an "optional" field. When I called the Recorder's office ahead of our visit last week, they told me the form from 2009 was no longer valid. "You need to fill out the new form, please."
"Would you like to be a bride, groom, or spouse," I asked my partner as I filled out the form.
"What are you going to be?" he asked.
"Groom. I like the tradition that names comes with. It sounds like a tuxedo," I said.
"I do too," he said, "Check groom for me."
We had the form notarized by the bank and witnessed by our neighbor. I wrote a check for $35.00 to the Johnson County Recorder and sent the paperwork to Iowa before we left. Iowa has a 3 day waiting period before licenses can be issued, so we wanted to make sure it was there for us to pick up in person, as is required by law.
"I'm so excited. I don't think I've ever been more excited to pick up a piece of paper in my entire life," I said to my partner as we pulled up in our rental car.
"Me too. Should I bring in the camera?" He asked.
"Yes!" I smiled.
In Iowa there are rarely lines for anything. There wasn't a line this day either. Three people were waiting to help us. All three smiled when we walked up to the window. "How can we help you?"
"We're here to pick up our marriage license," I explained. "My name is Joe Mirabella."
"Super! I have it right here," a woman went to a short gray filing cabinet and pulled out some paper work. "Here is a copy for your records. Be sure either you or the person who marries you brings this copy back to us within 15 days of your wedding."
My partner pulled out our camera and started snapping pictures of the documents, "Move your head. You're in my light," he instructed me.
"I love Iowa," I told the lady. "We can't get married in Washington State, but we grew up here, so we're proud to be married in our home state."
"Congratulations to you both," she said and smiled.
We stepped outside, and the Iowa summer sun immediately scolded my head. I squinted while looking at the bright white paperwork. "I can't believe this is real. Look at this. This is what equality feels like, and it feels so good."
"We need to have a proper celebration," my partner said, "let's not rush this." We talked about getting married last week while were home, but this wedding -- this marriage -- is more than just the piece of paper. It is about community, and the community of people who love and support us. I love and support my partner every day, but we are not alone. If we did not have the wonderful people in our lives that add meaning to every day, who knows where we would be.
So many of those people are right here in Washington. They are our friends and our family. They are there for us to celebrate our success, and they are there for us when times are rough. We want to celebrate our commitment to each other here in Washington.
Unfortunately, we can't legally marry here, but we can plan a party so that's what we're going to do. We have our paper from Iowa. We will sign it in Iowa and we will be married there. In Washington, we will celebrate. While the state of Washington may not acknowledge our marriage yet, our friends and family will. If that is not a good enough reason for a celebration, than I do not know what is.