An interesting facet of LGBT life in America is that the LGBT community from one era is easily distinguished from another. Our history has been marked by distinctive milestones that, not only, dramatically changed how society viewed us, but also acted as definitive markers, aiding us in identifying when an LGBT person lived.
When do you think a gay man was called a “confirmed bachelor?” If you guessed pre-Stonewall riots, you’d be correct. Do you recall a time when a lesbian woman or gay man was considered a brave activist for coming out and being openly gay, when LGBT activists pushed for employment protections for government employees or teachers? They’d probably have been around when Harvey Milk went into office.
Did they die young in the late 80s? AIDS crisis. Did they go to jail for being gay? They might have been having sex with someone of the same-sex before the fall of the sodomy laws. Was the LGBT person drummed out of the military because of their orientation? They likely served during Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. What if they served without issue? They had enlisted after the fall of DADT.
Now marriage equality has become the latest benchmark, a symbol of, not only, when the person lived, but, in many cases, where too.
As same-sex marriage has become legal in a patchwork of states, we’ve seen gay and lesbian couples flocking in great numbers to the altar. Whether it’s through legislative action or court rulings, we’ve seen the same pattern play out in state after state: As soon as marriage is legal, couples rush to get hitched as quickly as possible.
When Massachusetts became the first state to enact marriage equality, videos and pictures of happy gay and lesbian couples getting married quickly bombarded the newsrooms. As each state has begun to validate our relationships, you see the same phenomenon take place over and over again. Scads of happy couples rush to the altar as quickly as they can to certify their love in the eyes of the law.
Now lawsuits challenging state same-sex marriage bans have swept the nation, and the result is the same. In states like Michigan, Arkansas, Utah, Indiana and Wisconsin, couples made a mad dash for their local clerk’s office as soon as the ruling was announced and before it could be put on hold for a higher court to review.
These couples’ anniversaries match those of hundreds of other gay and lesbian couples in their state. If your anniversary is July 25, 26 or 27, statistics say you’re most likely from Indiana. March 22? Chances are high you live in Michigan.
As my partner and I prepare to get hitched, one of the more difficult questions we’ve had to decide upon is when we should actually get married. Our anniversary, like those of many other gay and lesbian couples, is up to us to decide. Should it be the day we went on our first date? The day we formally agreed we were boyfriends? We picked our first date as the most important date and have celebrated on that day each year.
But now we’re getting married. Thankfully, we live in D.C. (which has had marriage equality for years), so we don’t have to rush to beat a judge’s gavel. How does that affect our anniversary? We’ve been together for 15 years already, celebrating the same day each year. Changing to a different day seems ridiculous, so we opted to make things official on our already established anniversary - October 6. Our 16th anniversary will also be our first.
Deciding our date is a luxury many of our friends and colleagues around the nation cannot afford this year. Though it’s unfortunate, it makes sending anniversary cards to them easier; they’ll just go out in batches.