I finished Laurie R. King‘s latest novel (from 2006, but I’m a bit behind) with tears in my eyes. The Art of Detection features lesbian SF Police Detective Kate Martinelli investigating the murder of a local “Sherlockian,” who may or may not have held an unpublished Holmes manuscript by Conan Doyle (or even Holmes himself!). My tears had nothing to do with the mystery, but with the closing scene of the novel, which is set in 2004: Martinelli, her partner Lee, and their daughter Nora are mounting the stairs of San Francisco City Hall to get married.
For most of my adult life I’d considered the issue of gay marriage a non-starter: marriage is just a ritual; it’s what’s in our hearts that counts; we need the legal rights that accompany marriage, not the ceremony itself. Then SF Mayor Gavin Newsom jumped unexpectedly into the fray. Because he felt that heterosexuals-only marriage violated the state constitution’s equal-protection guarantees, he ordered that the city begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The news hit the stands, the reporters rolled inâ€”and I wept. Big drippy tears of joy and relief and suffering I hadn’t even known I was feeling. Day after day, I wept as I read the accounts of the marriages, the legal wrangling, the protests. I am not a weepy woman, but I wept.
I hadn’t realized the burden I was carrying, that all of us “unmarriables” were carrying. I had been riding on the back of the bus without knowing it, and seeing others like me going to the front, being respectfully ushered to the front by people of good will who refused to allow injustice to go unquestioned, opened a floodgate.
Melissa and I are not married. We weren’t quite ready then, and later when we did make a lifetime commitment to one another, the opportunity was no longer there. When we discuss retirement and where we’ll settle, marriage is always near the top of our list. We want marriage, real marrriage, not a “domestic partnership,” which, yes, is legal and important, but that in the aftermath of what happened in San Francisco reeks of the separate-but-[not]-equal cop-out that it is. Maybe we’ll wind up in Massachusetts, maybe Canada. We could head to one of several European nations. (South Africa is probably not on our list.) We both love the Pacific coast and may stay here, unmarried, but enjoying the fog and salt air nonetheless. Our kitties have no idea they’re “illegitimate.” And our love is strong and true with or without government sanction. But if we had the chance to marry each other today, we would. In a heartbeat. I dream of hiring the Sacramento limousine service for myself and my partner to finally experience that.
So I finished Laurie R. King’s latest with tears in my eyes. It’s a great read. I highly recommend it.
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