For Better or Worse: Why It's Bittersweet That I Could Get Legally Married in NY

The beginnings of our marriage license. ❤

Jenn hung our marriage license in our bedroom today. I noticed it when I was taking off my earrings when I came home from work. We’d talked about finding the most special place possible for it, proudly displayed in its new frame. It’s right next to our gigantic “happily ever after” plaque, and when I saw it, I got teary eyed all over again.

If you’re a straight person, reading the above paragraph, you might not understand it. A marriage license is something you’ve always been allowed to have, something you’ve never had to think about. That’s not your fault. You were born that way. You were allowed marriage and I wasn’t, though your love is not better or worse than my love. Not better or worse, just different. But the ramifications of its differentness impacts me deeply and legally. Or, it did. Until a few months ago.

You see, Jenn and I live in New York state. NY began to allow gay marriages on July 24, 2011. I remember that day with such a striking vividness, though I remember the moment that they announced it as legal much, much clearer.

We were having a fairy party (you are not surprised) over the weekend, and many of our guests had already arrived that evening when my best friend–who hadn’t yet made it–called me. I couldn’t hear her amidst the laughter, so I went into the bedroom, hand clasped over my other ear. “…it passed?” she yelled breathlessly, exuberant. “I don’t know if it passed, silly!” I laughed back, “we don’t know if it’s going to be voted on tonight…” “No!” she shouted. “SARAH. It PASSED.”

My world fell away. I stood, silent, limp when she said: “SARAH? DID YOU HEAR ME? IT PASSED.”

And then I began to sob. I sobbed, breathless, for five minutes, turning, blind, to collapse into Jenn’s arms. I kept crying, everyone gathered worriedly. “It didn’t pass?” someone whispered, and only then did I find my voice, only then did months, years of activism, of praying, of frustration, of abuse from angry, homophobic people fall completely away into my personal history as I gulped air, shook my head, and through my tears I said over and over again like someone who’s been given the world: “no. It PASSED. Oh god, it passed.”

I’d always been so afraid, though I’d tried to hide it. Afraid that Jenn would get sick, that they wouldn’t let me see her in the hospital. Afraid something terrible might happen to me, and she be left with nothing (the house is in my name). All of the little things that a married couple never even has to think about I thought about day and night. For Jenn and I were already married, though it wasn’t legal. And if she’d gotten ill or something had happened to me, it would have meant nothing to the faceless systems that would keep us apart.

It sounds science fiction-y, doesn’t it. Like something out of a movie, that in this day and age, two passionately and madly in love people could be kept from one another in the moments that matter most. My worst nightmares contained faceless hospital staff that stood and barred the door, refusing me admittance to the room where my wife lay, calling for me. It’s a grotesque and dramatic image, but it happens every single day in this country. Every single day in every single state that does not have gay marriage or protection for gay couples.

It wasn’t just about the legal ramifications, the safety that would be afforded to us once it passed. It was the “less than” status that, every day, we combated. Gay marriage in NY state has not been a miracle pill. In our rural community, it’s still sometimes frightening to be an openly gay woman. Countless people still look down at us, hate us, make the everyday, simple task of holding hands a political statement open for commentary by every stranger passing.

But we’re legal. We are no longer less than. And that has begun to make all the difference.

The problem, now, is…well, I’m calling it “survivor’s guilt.” You see, we have a lot of gay friends. Many of them don’t live in NY. Some of our dearest loved ones are not allowed the exact same rights that we have because of geography, because of the state they live in. Which seems so odd, so wrong, so ridiculous to me that I have a hard time understanding it. L and J, two beautiful hearts and so in love women, cannot marry because their state doesn’t allow it. So, while I am afforded the legal safety and privileges of marriage, they are still in the cold and dark of waiting for their state to see progress, to see empathy and equality. There is nothing different about their love from ours.

The only difference is geography.

I can’t stop looking at our marriage license. I have such mixed feelings when I do. Relief. Elation. Love. Joy. Happiness. Gratitude.

And sadness that I’m one of the “lucky” ones. When we should ALL be the “lucky” ones.

Some of our older gay friends have reminded me, gently, that Rome wasn’t built in a day. When Jenn and I fell in love, eight years ago, we could never have imagined that we would, today, be legally married. THAT seemed like science fiction, and yet–look. Eight “short” years later, and I wear a beautiful, shining wedding band that symbolizes, as simple metal can try, everlasting love. Who knows what eight years more can do?

I have hope. I have faith.

And though I am now afforded these shiny, new legal rights, I can’t stop. No one can stop. And no one is stopping. We are all still trying, still fighting, and we will never stop fighting for equal rights for all. Everywhere. EveryONE.

Regardless of geography.

About Sarah Diemer

I write about heroic, magical girls who love girls. I drink a lot of coffee. Follow me at or find out more about my work at
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2 Responses to For Better or Worse: Why It's Bittersweet That I Could Get Legally Married in NY

  1. Ally says:

    I am so happy for you guys, but you’re right- there is SO MUCH left to do. I would love to see gay marriage legal here in Virginia (although I am pessimistic about that in the near future) and EVERYWHERE.


  2. Lee Richards says:

    Sarah, you constantly amaze me with your wordsmithing. Your ability to articulate the truth is astonishing. I’m so proud to know you, and to champion your concerns for equality.


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