12 August 2008

Sometimes I'm Married


On Aug 15, 2004, my partner Lynn and I, who had already been together for 13 years, were married in our home in the company of 60 friends and family. This was three months after our right to marry had been affirmed by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, which found that there was no "constitutionally adequate reason" for denying marriage to same-sex couples. Although they received very short notice, almost every person we invited made it to the ceremony and it was a fantastic, warm and wonderful celebration.

I love being married. But until this year I was only married in Massachusetts, which makes for some interesting (and confusing) situations. For example, Lynn and I file our state taxes jointly, but we file our federal taxes as two single people. The U.S. census does not count us as married. If I were to die today, Lynn would not be eligible to collect on my social security the way other married couples can and she would have to pay federal inheritance taxes on half of our joint properties. Whenever we leave the state, Lynn and I always joke that we aren't married any more, but the question of whether or not our marriage is valid when we travel out of state is no laughing matter if something bad happens. (Our lawyer advised us to carry a copy of our marriage license when we travel!) And which box do we check when asked if we're married on an insurance or other type of application form?

So in honor of Lynn and my four-year wedding anniversary (and 17 years together) I thought I'd start a little woodblock print about the state of our marriage. Here's the design transferred to a block:


And here are two prints in what will probably be a very slow reduction series:


You can see that we're now married in both Massachusetts and California. I haven't noted states that offer "civil unions" as I'm unclear on what exactly "civil union" means. I think of it as a sort of semantic trick -- even though some or many of the rights of marriage may be conferred in a civil union (or civil partnership, registered partnership, domestic partnership, etc.), the semantic difference between marriage and civil unions has no purpose I can discern other than to continue to stigmatize and isolate same-gender relationships. But on the 2008 map I've noted New York, where Governor David Paterson has directed state agencies to recognize all policies and laws pertaining to same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions, and New Jersey and New Mexico which recognize same-sex marriage conducted abroad, so possibly will recognize marriage from other states as well.

I plan to revisit this very gradual reduction print every year around our wedding anniversary until all the states are one color. Then we can frame the series and hang it on our nursing home wall.


d. moll, l.ac. said...

Almost a performance art piece with a graphic by product. Loved the ending, dry and droll.

BZ said...

Good that you are aware of the potential problems with outside institutions recognizing (or not) your rights as a couple. My sister lost her partner to cancer, and the ensuing settlement with her partner's family regarding the "stuff" and money, plus benefits from retirement accounts etc. was a raging nightmare. Bad enough to lose a mate during the prime of life. I am not crazy about the concept of "marriage" as a legal status at all because of problems where church & state maybe shouldn't be so closely linked. My vote is to establish legal partnerships for couples so they are protected, regardless of the genders involved and then people can decorate the change of status with whatever ceremony they deem appropriate. Few people understand how complicated this issue can be for someone unless they've seen that messy path first hand or are in the personal position to consider the questions.

I wish you and Lynn a happy anniversary, and may you enjoy every day together. Let's hope our country can begin to show compassion and accommodation for all committed partnerships as a way to strengthen our society.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Annie and Lynne!

Nice work all round.
I really like this print too.
So personal yet universal, poignant but funny.

Best wishes,

Annie B said...

Thanks for the good wishes, and for enjoying my sense of humor!

29, I'm so sorry about your sister. You're right, the death of a spouse is hard enough without having to navigate all that red tape and legalese.

Patricia Phare-Camp said...

Happy Anniversary Annie! I hope that you and Lynn will toast the "yellow U.S. map" in your living room many - many years before the nursing home...

Aunt Besse was my father and my favorite aunt; I was even named for her. When I was a teenager Dad and I went to Great Aunt Besse's funeral. Later at the wake in aunt Besse's home my grandmother and surviving great aunts went through Aunt Besse's belongings while Aunt Besse's childhood friend and roommate sat quietly in the corner looking on.

A few years older and wiser truth dawned on me and I grieved again, 1- for the lifelong love they hid, 2- for the other great aunt I never knew very well.

Anytime I hear debate about same sex marriage my minds eye goes back to Aunt Besse's partner quietly sitting in the corner while my family obtusely went through her things.

No spouse should ever have to endure such a violation of privacy.

Annie B said...

Patti, what a heart-rending story. Thanks for sharing it. It's really amazing how much has changed just in our lifetime. Your story of Aunt Besse reminds me that Lynn and I stand on the shoulders of many who have silently gone before us.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of the gradually-reducing map.I hope all the states are yellow soon.

David Harrison said...

Congratulations! May the rest of the country/world have the wit and wisdom to recognize your marriage very soon.

Kris Shanks said...

I love the idea of this print, and I'm looking forward to more progress across the country. Unfortunately, California may have to go back to black in November. Let's hope the voters decide to let us stay married!

Annie B said...

Thank you David and Sue for your well wishes from Britain! Kris, how did they get something on the ballot so quickly in CA?! (And how could legal marriages that have already been performed be taken away from a whole class of people?)

Lana Lambert said...

I love the concept for this work! Very in your face! Congratulations on your anniversary also! It's quite a testament to be together for so long when most seem to split after only a few years.

Diane Cutter said...

Congratulations to the two of you, Annie! I'm so very happy for you... yes, married life is wonderful!

Kim Carney said...

Happy Anniversary! I wish the US would stop this silly notion of what is a "right" marriage. I am sick of the whole thing. I want us to move on the important issues! This seems to be a no-brainer ... you are a couple ... you want to get marr to the partner of your Choice. Period.

Eraethil said...

Your reduction print is a very cool idea, and such an appropriate choice of medium.

I am proud to live in a "golden land" just a little to the north of your transitioning country. We also had a time when our individual provinces had to step forward and recognize rights ahead of our federal government. I hope that your print is completely golden in a couple of years.

Happy anniversary to you both!

mizu designs said...

Happy anniversary Annie and Lynne! Australia has no such laws as of yet so I can't marry my partner. It's funny though because neither of us are big fans of marriage but we do believe strongly in the right for people to be able to, and for all the legal stuff that follows. I'm so glad Ellen and Portia went quite public about their wedding. It really helps make same sex relationships more visible.

mizu designs said...

Oh and I forgot to say great reduction print idea! What a wonderful way to document change.

Annie B said...

Thanks so much for your kind words, all you people of the golden lands! (And golden hearts and golden minds...) xo Annie

Steve Emery said...

Annie, I love the way you convert ideas, feelings, and intangible realities into images. You have a huge heart, and a great deal passes through it, or takes up residence there until it becomes visible to the rest of us. And now I can have an additional spot of tenderness about you, knowing about your partnership with Lynn. My brother is also in a same sex relationship, which I hope will last the rest of their lives. They're an exceptionally lovely couple. The fact that NC does not provide a marriage option for them is a great sadness, but one that might someday be resolved - and you'll have another yellow state on your print.

Many more happy anniversaries - and may those states go yellow much faster than we dare to hope.

Annie B said...

Thank you, Steve. I was really touched by your comment.

ainesse said...

Annie....you know how Tracey Emin made that installation work that was exhibited at the Tate gallery. The unmade bed. I think it was there as one of the final four shortlisted Turner prize nominees.
She won the prize that year I think.
She likes to refer to it as a seminal work.

Well, I happen to think that this print (which caught my eye as I had a catch-up look through your Flickr album pages) is of this nature I mean it is a seminal work.
I congratulate you on this most important recent event in your life and I am so pleased that you are making a piece about this. It is both personal and political and very cleverly communicated. You know I admire your wonderful wood block prints anyway.

very best wishes


Annie B said...

Hi Aine, thank you so much for all your kind words and support. Hope you are well.