I’m in the airport. We are smiling, 60 minutes away from boarding time, when I realize that I’ve left my copy of the Divorce Decree at the post office. That’s right, I never even bothered to pick it up. We weren’t all that sold on being legally married since it won’t carry over in the state where we live, but I’m still panicked.

So I’m running through the maze of the airport, trying to get to a cab when I realize that I forgot my camera at home. I can’t get both things. In fact, there is no cab, and I can’t pick up either thing. My heart breaks.  I walk back to the gate.

I’m standing with my wife. Waiting for the plane to board. She says it doesn’t matter. We can have a friend who is watching the cats overnight the camera to us. We don’t need to be legally married. It’s no big deal. But when I wake up I’m crying and my heart is broken.

This morning I made an unexpected discovery.  As much as the institution of marriage (especially the civil institution) bothers me, apparently my divorce matters very much indeed.  This morning I got ready faster than I have in years and happily made my way to the post office to pick up my Divorce Decree.  It’s a silly little piece of paper, but it filled me with great joy.  From there I went directly to the Social Security Administration to have my name restored.  It feels so good to just be me.  I love S.  He’s a great guy, in fact his acceptance of my lesbianism was the most important affirmation I received when I came out.  But after being clear about the end of our marriage for almost 3 years it is a HUGE relief to have it all done and dusted.

Here’s why this all mattered so much to me….when you tell someone that you and your ex separated years ago and they say, “When did you get divorced?”, it’s exhausting.  For a variety of reasons (my frequent moves and S’s status as a foreign national) it took us much longer to go through the divorce process that it might take someone else.  Additionally, we wanted to make sure that all of our assets were divided before we started the process, lest some lawyer try to convince us that there was something to argue over.  So, when some innocent person would pose that particular question I would feel like I had to explain myself, like I was somehow less of a person because the state hadn’t decreed that my marriage was over at the same time that we decided it was over.

What is most infuriating to me is the notion that a marriage begins when you say some words in a church and ends only when the government says so.  It’s ridiculous.  Why should the church or the state have a say over my relationships?  I’m not committed to another person because the state says so.  I’m committed because my partner and I wake up every day and say “yes” to each other and (because we are christian) ask God’s blessing as we attempt to be good partners to one another.  The church didn’t support my marriage, in fact, the church was incredibly hurtful to both myself and my ex when my marriage was ending.   The notion that the state should have any investment in my marriage or that anyone should receive particular benefits because of their marital status bothers me deeply.

I don’t know if we will go visit the Clerk’s office for yet another silly piece of paper next week.  What I do know is that on Saturday we will go to the beach with our friends and family.  On Sunday we will gather in my parent’s back yard where there will be a little ceremony that we have written ourselves and a lovely party.  And in the end we will continue know that we were married the day we moved into our first shared apartment, looked at each other, celebrated because this was exactly what we wanted for the rest of our lives, and asked God’s blessing.  I want our children to have the same rights as every other child, and I want my wife to be able to visit me in the hospital should I ever be ill, but I might just let a lawyer write up those documents and keep the state out of the rest of it.

Again, this is clearly not my most eloquent post, but I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.  What does marriage mean to you?  Is your marriage state sanctioned?  Why or why not?