Monday, November 12, 2012


By Kate McLachlan

What’s your anniversary?

That’s always been a loaded question for any same-sex couple. Anniversary of what? Denied the right to have a wedding anniversary, we’ve engineered our own anniversaries. First kiss, first sex, the date we moved in together, the date we had that private commitment ceremony out on Point Whatchamacallit with no one but God as our witness. Sometimes our anniversaries commemorate dates so private we can’t share them, so we don’t even admit them to people who ask. Opposite sex couples don’t have this problem. They may fondly remember their first kiss or the date they moved in together, but once they marry, their marriage date overtakes all others and becomes paramount. What’s your anniversary, you ask? That’s easy, they say. It’s the date they got married.
Not so for same-sex couples.

Washington State passed Referendum 74 on November 6, 2012, and the measure will be ratified 30 days later, on December 6, 2012. On that date same-sex couples will be allowed to apply for marriage licenses in Washington. We have a 3-day waiting period here, though, between license and wedding, so December 9, 2012, is the first date same-sex couples can legally marry in Washington. You might expect, then, that a lot of same-sex couples in Washington will have anniversary dates of December 9, 2012, or perhaps December 12, 2012, for the 123 crowd.

Not so fast. You see, in Washington we’ve had the ability to register as Domestic Partners since 2007. Since then, 9,901 same-sex couples have registered as Domestic Partners, including me and Tonie. The Secretary of State sent us a Domestic Partnership card that gave us our Domestic Partnership Number and the date of our union. Yep, we’ve been card-carrying lesbians since August 9, 2007. You can check it out on the Washington State Secretary of State website under “Corporations.” Isn’t that romantic?

So for a while there, August 9, 2007, was our anniversary date. We didn’t pick it, of course. That just happens to be the date the Secretary of State processed our paperwork. 

But a couple of years later, something exciting happened in California. Same-sex marriage became legal! Only for a few months, though, until the Prop 8 disaster occurred, but even after that barn door closed and same-sex marriages could no longer be performed in California, the courts ruled that those of us who’d managed to get married during the brief window of opportunity (it’s a barn window, just so you don’t think I’m mixing my metaphors) were still legally married. Including me and Tonie! We got married in California on July 7, 2008. (We were bummed it wasn’t 2007, so our anniversary could have been 7-7-7. How lucky would that have been?)
So July 7, 2008, must be our anniversary. Right? Right?


Now that R74 has officially turned Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 into law, I decided to read the fine print. Section 10(4) states: “For purposes of determining the legal rights and responsibilities involving individuals who had previously had a state registered domestic partnership and have been issued a marriage license or are deemed married under the provisions of this section, the date of the original state registered domestic partnership is the legal date of the marriage.” 

The legal date of our marriage, then, is August 9, 2007, the date the Secretary of State processed our Domestic Partnership paperwork. My lovely wife has an amazing memory for dates. She remembers the date of every single memorable event in our lives, and she freaks people out all the time by remembering their parents’ birthdays and the anniversary of their high school best friend. I asked her this morning what she did on August 9, 2007. She didn’t have a clue.

I appreciate very much that the citizens of Washington have decided that my right to marry was worthy of their votes. I appreciate that the Washington State Legislature wants so badly to protect my right to marry that they’ve effectively made my marriage retroactive to the earliest date on which Washington granted us rights as a couple. But I’m not going to let the Washington State Legislature or the citizens of Washington pick my anniversary date.

We got married on July 9, 2008, in Nevada City, California, at the Nevada County Courthouse in a room lined with huge dusty books filled with land deeds dating back a hundred years. We wore matching blouses and carried red roses and didn’t worry at all that we also wore shorts and flip flops. It was a very hot day. The court clerk was tickled to marry us, and the people standing in line to conduct their business at the clerk’s office peeked in at us and giggled. We’d driven over that morning from Reno. Tonie’s sister sat in the front seat with Tonie and they chatted while I slept in the back. It turns out I’d contracted mono, though I didn’t know it yet, and I was sleepy. Tonie’s brother and nephew came too, in a separate car. They were a bit stunned to be witnessing a same-sex marriage. They didn’t have anything like that back in Kansas, and we didn’t even tell them we were going to do it until the day before. Jim was proud to sign as a witness, though, and we gave him one of our roses to put through the button-hole of his golf shirt.

Ask us what we did on July 7, 2008, and we are filled with memories. July 7th is our anniversary, regardless of the “legal date of the marriage.”

Thank you, Washington, for recognizing our marriage. But we’re going to pick our own anniversary, if it’s all the same to you.

I have to admit, though, that it’s not a bad thing to have a built-in excuse for forgetting our anniversary. “Oh, that old anniversary?” I ask. “I was going to surprise you big for the one in August.” 

By Kate McLachlan,, author of Rip Van Dyke (2010 Goldie Award winner), Rescue at Inspiration Point (2011), and Hearts, Dead and Alive (2012).

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  1. Wow, that's confusing! But I'm very glad same sex couples can marry now, if that's what your hearts desire! Congratulations! Shirley Patrick

  2. I'm thinking about all the people who haven't read the fine print and are getting ready to buy another license from the State of Washington. Will they be asked at the license place if they're already registered as domestic partners I wonder? What about people who registered as domestic partners with SOMEONE ELSE? don't they now need to get divorced before they marry a new same-sex partner? oh oh.

  3. We know a couple who got married every time they could. This includes when Gavin Newsom was mayor and decided to marry ever same sex couple who showed up at city hall until they told him he had to stop! I can't even enumerate the other times, but I know they claim 4 different marriage ceremonies -- and I have no idea which one (or ones) they claim as their anniversary! My partner and I celebrate the anniversary of our initial commitment ceremony on Oct 18 -- and when we could marry during that short window in California, we decided to move our wedding to the 19th because it would be easier for family to attend on a Saturday. Oh, wait, and then there is the domestic partnership thing in California (which we were allowed to keep in tandem with our marriage, according to the State). Boy, heterosexuals have it so easy....

  4. I also live in Washington, just east of Vancouver. I was rather shocked today when some friends asked me to become ordained so that I could marry them. They have been enthusiastically making wedding plans since November 6th. We, however, have a similar dilemma as to which date to acknowledge. We were married in Portland in March of 2004 during that maverick 2 week period, but later received an anulment in the mail. It was such an unromantic day, despite the ceremony, that we have gotten to the point that we both forget to celebrate the date. I'm not sure if we will have a real ceremony now, or wait until there is national recognition. Many friends are expecting a ceremony, and we may just need to oblige.