Left (out) at the altar

co-coordinator of Yolo County Gay Pride Day in Davis, with her partner, Shelly Bailes

Even supporters of gay rights often have a lot of misinformation. Here’s a pop quiz: A committed same-sex couple, both American citizens, can legally marry in (a) Hawaii, (b) San Francisco, (c) Vermont or (d) nowhere in the world.

Few people choose (d), but that’s the only correct answer.

Same-sex marriage was placed on the ballot in Hawaii, but it lost. San Francisco is a friendly place, but it can offer only a few California Domestic Partnership rights. A couple can have a civil union in Vermont, which means they receive the rights and responsibilities conferred by that state, but once they leave the Green Mountain state, they are legally nothing more than housemates. And, even in Vermont, they can’t file their federal income tax return together, receive Social Security or veteran’s survivor benefits, or partake in the more than 1,000 federal rights and responsibilities that marriage grants to heterosexual couples.

Although there is a lot of talk about gay rights and gay marriage, in reality there is very little of either.

With these facts in mind, my same-sex partner and I went to the Bureau of Records in Sacramento on Valentine’s Day to get a marriage license. We didn’t go alone. About 40 other same-sex couples came along, and we looked good! Wedding gowns, pink tulle, tuxedos and Valentine’s hearts were everywhere. Not surprisingly, we were all turned down; in the United States, only a man and a woman can marry.

Our action was the kick-off event for the new Sacramento/Yolo chapter of Marriage Equality California (MECA), the only California organization whose sole purpose is to gain civil-marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Undaunted, we drove to Woodland to meet with still more couples. As the Yolo County recorder, Freddie Oakley, turned down our license requests, she said, “I personally do not see any governmental purpose that is served by that law, and it hurts my heart to have to tell you no.”

We don’t see our inability to get a marriage license as too big a setback. We’ve been engaged for almost 30 years. We just think that maybe it’s about time we got married.