OutLoud: I Do Declare

Sally and Wifey are domestically partnered at last.

We’re in the paper, baby.

Our local daily’s “For the Record” page—right in there with Deaths, Blood Bank Donors Needed, and Dissolutions of Marriage—now features a new listing: Declarations of Domestic Partnership. Yes, indeedy. The self-same newspaper that refused to print marriage announcements during the brief era in 2004 of issuing licenses to same-sex couples (and to this day has yet to print birth announcements of babies born to same-sex parents) is now providing us space in the public record and advancing our foray into legitimacy. We’re here. We’re queer. Read all about it.

The names of two-man and two-woman couples printed in our local rag every day is a momentous shift. Now, just as undeniably as Lewis and Clark, Steve Prefontaine, and the KKK, Oregon’s homos are at last being woven into the historic fabric of the Beaver State (don’t go there).

Other than entering history’s annals (don’t go there, either), what does domestic partnership really mean? I guess the biggest difference is that we’re legal. We don’t have to worry if anyone should dare challenge our entitlement to accompany each other into the ER, make end-of-life decisions, or dispose of our mate’s remains. Fabulous, or what?

My Domestic Partner and I have been advised that we now need to add a codicil to our wills affirming that we, being of sound body and mind (no jokes here, please), do hereby attest that we meant what we said and intend for our partner to inherit our worldly goods, real property, and, just for the romance of it, debts.

The thousand-some couples who have only this month been allowed by law a smattering of state rights and protections are still a bit giddy, even though most of us have been doing it for years. And by “it,” I mean sharing an address, expenses, and cat care.

Take Wifey and me, for example. Since 1987, we’ve loved, honored, and tidied up after each other—fairly domestic and clearly partnered. This winter when a mysterious illness struck our dear Pussy (not her real name), Wifey and I jointly rushed her to the emergency vet. We love our cat, but if we could bring her back to life without having to re-hock our house, we would do what we had to. So we teamed up as home health nurses to administer injections, force-feed concentrated nutrients, and drip in 200 mls of subcutaneous fluids per day. Funny, during that whole month-long ordeal of reviving dear Pussy, we never once were asked to show anyone proof of our domestic partnership.

I’m not unhappy with our new status, but “Declarations of Domestic Partnership” does sound kind of weird, partly because those words strike me as such an odd combo. Is it just me, or does the phrase “Declarations of Domestic Partnership” conjure a kooky Southern belle/housekeeper/cowpoke—as in I do declay-ah, where’s the Pine Sol, pahd’ner? Any other domestic partners out there having a titch of identity crisis?

Don’t get me wrong. Gaining legal rights at long last is a good thing, for sure. A definite step toward justice for all. But now that the paper is printing names—along with our ages, as many of us pretending to be younger than we are have been somewhat shocked to discover—we’re also newly exposed to all manner of nut jobs who might be inclined to pray for our hell-bound souls, or worse. This newsprint roster has been deemed by one not-necessarily-paranoid friend as the Gay Hit List.

Not that the closet door was ever bullet-proof, but you would think in exchange for the additional risk, we could at least collect one another’s Social Security or cross state lines without losing our rights. No such luck.

That’s OK, though. We’re headed in the right direction. With so many queer Oregonians publicly declaring our domestic partnerships, once-homophobic folks will surely come to see that the sky isn’t falling and the sanctity of their marriage is no more questionable than it ever was. Then maybe we can lift this whole silly cloud of inequality and get on with life.

Sally Sheklow is a multiple winner in the annual awards presented by the Houston Press Club.

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