The Island is made up of marriages.
Our marriages are made of the stuff of the Island. Marriage is Issue Number One on the Island right now, and I want to talk about it here too.
There are other basic elements in the structure of the Island, and every family, but marriages are as fundamental to us as atoms to molecules. Our marriages are various: couple and group, traditional and radical, "legal" and piratical. We are married by couples, by triples, by quads and more. We are organized into courts, which are something like nuclear families, and each of our courts is also a marriage. Some courts contain marriages within marriages, some share members with other courts, some are bound by cross-court marriages. Our marriages nest, connect, interconnect, interlock and overlap. We consider the Island itself to be one big complexly interconnected group marriage, a marriage writ large. We are women married to women and men married to men, and we're so bleeding edge we even have a few "mixed marriages." Yes. Men and women married to--each other.
Shocking, I know, and yet it happens. It's a crazy world.
Most of our marriages are what we call "Island marriages," committed life unions which are sanctioned, supported, sealed and solemnized under the authority of the Island ourselves, the Island alone, the whole Island and nothing but the Island. Not legalized or sanctified by anyone else, not by any other state, county, nation, church, religion, planetary system or galactic federation. We created them, we support them, we live them. In June of 2011 the state of New York legalized same-sex marriage, we were there in Manhattan when it happened (Kelly and Ciara were working there that summer and we were all there to see them), and the whole city, and the Island, went wild. We were by the river, celebrating this victory along with the rest of Manhattan, when suddenly there was a collective sigh among us. We realized together that this triumph for marriage equality, as great as it was, legally didn't mean a thing back home in Colorado. None of us had any intention of actually getting legally married in New York, where none of us have any serious emotional roots, and in any case "legal" couple marriages, even same-sex couple marriages, wouldn't come close to reflecting or expressing most of our real
relationships, which exist in many shapes, sizes and numbers of partners, not just couples. We were celebrating a victory we felt was our victory too, but at the same time we felt left out of the celebration. Sigh.
Then a voice cut through the sighs.
"I'll marry you," Lucia said. "Anyone on the Island who wants to be married, I will marry you to each other. Any time, any place, in any combination or configuration you desire. You can be married by me, under the rule and authority of the Island. Who's with me?"
"You can do
that?" we said, among other things. We were utterly awestruck.
"Of course I can do that," she said. "I'm the Queen of the Island. I can do anything, if it's for the good of the Island."
Lucia had just that very moment thought of the idea of Island marriages, but she was right. Of course she could do that: She was the Queen of the Island. And to be technically complete, several of us present that day already considered ourselves married, having married each other under no authority but our own, our love, our witnesses, and our wedding rings. And our wedding cake. So the idea was not completely novel to us. But those improvised weddings had taken place either before the Island even existed, or just as it was emerging from the waves. Lucia was having a vision of something much more momentous and majestic, even epic.
"But it wouldn't be legal," we protested. (I'm paraphrasing.) "It wouldn't be binding. How could we do that? How would it work? How could it last?"
"The Island works," she replied, and I'm not paraphrasing, this is approximately verbatim. "Our relationships are working. We love each other and we're committed to each other. Our marriages will be part of the Island. They'll be as binding as the Island, and the Island is for life."
Well, that settled that.
And of course she was right, and it was a brilliant idea. That July, in Virginia, Lucia as our Queen married us to one another, in every combination and confuguration we desired, in an unbelievably magical ceremony which we created ourselves out of the stuff of the Island, and the stuff of dreams. Those marriages have thrived and endured, just as the Island endures. And evolves.
The Island today: Twenty-four adults, three merged families, nine courts, five small children with two more on the way (and four grown children around the world), eighteen interlocking marriages of various kinds (and counting). Among all those marriages there are exactly four
that took place "legally" and more or less traditionally, each involving one man and one woman, in big churches with priests and choirs and wedding gowns, and official marriage licenses issued by official persons other (and rather less grand, in our estimation) than the Queen of the Island. We don't think those distinctions make these four marriages any bigger or better or more "real" or more binding than our other Island marriages, but they do make them very special in their own way, and each of those four marriages is a spectacular success. And right now all four of those marriages happen to be celebrating their wedding anniversaries. Right now,
from the end of last week to the middle of this week, and the Island is celebrating them too. We've been celebrating for days now, and the party is still rocking on. HAPPY ANNIVERSARIES! To Michael and Maria, Mark and Bella, Hawk and Angel, and Dante and Francesca. Long may you love!
The Island is a big, bustling place where everything is always happening all at once, like weddings and birthdays and anniversaries. This week we're also celebrating a major birthday. Our indispensable and adorable Marie-Azelie, aka Zizi, is turning thirty this week (she said we could say that here), and the Island has ordered up a big, red, full moon and a total lunar eclipse to mark the occasion for her. Because we love her. HAPPY BIRTHDAY ZIZI!
Have some blood moon on us, everyone, there's plenty of moonlight to go around. Later this month we'll celebrate another big birthday when our little Amalia turns five years old, on Halloween night. Along the way we have a few other important occasions to celebrate this month. And finally Halloween, also known as Queer New Year. And that brings me back to same-sex marriage.
Yesterday (because I wrote most of this last night and I'm finishing it, with a little help, this morning), the US Supreme Court surprised the world by declining to hear in their new term any
of the multitude of urgent court cases involving same-sex marriage. (Although they might be forced to do so yet, particularly if there's a circuit split.) On the Island we were much less surprised than most. We convened a Crown Court meeting on this issue over the weekend, after the Supremes notably failed to add a marriage case to their docket last week (we were pulling for Virginia, it was the most complex case but would have made the best precedent), and we concluded that this was exactly what they would do. Or rather, not
Many people are calling this a tacit victory for marriage equality. It is. The Court's refusal to act leaves the federal Circuit courts' decisions in full force, and as soon as those decisions are formally un-stayed, thirty states and the District will suddenly achieve marriage equality, including Colorado. With a single Supreme Court inaction, we will shift from a minority of states to a majority. Many other states will fall into the win column as well, as soon as other lower court decisions are also un-stayed. All those suspended victories in lower courts will now become real victories. Apparently a sufficiency of the Supremes consider that the lower courts are making good law on this issue, and therefore it's not yet absolutely necessary for them to intervene. And so they chose not to act, and in so doing they acted very consciously in favor of our side. It's a win.
It's also a failure. A failure to lead, a failure to embrace the tide of history, a failure of heart, of vision, of imagination and nerve and resolve. It leaves unresolved the underlying Constitutional questions. It leaves millions of people fighting the same fight over and over, probably for years to come. It leaves millions of same-sex couples out in the cold. It leaves a few backward American states dug in against the future, battling against marriage equality to the last lawyer and the last brief.
But this failure is perhaps also a "blessing in disguise." Most of us in the LGBT and pro-marriage equality worlds have been infected with a touching and completely unwarranted faith in the wisdom of the Supreme Court. It's too easy to fall into the wish-fulfillment trap of believing the mighty Supremes would someday take on the perfect case and hear the perfect arguments from the perfect advocates and in their perfect wisdom issue forth from on high the perfect ruling, which would end the struggle once and for all for the entire nation and bring marriage equality (and peace) to the USA, from sea to shining sea. The reality of American history is that the Supreme Court is often just as likely to fuck it up. They're fully capable of getting it all wrong, partly wrong or only half right, clouding the entire issue for a generation or more. Our private suspicion is that a minority on the current Court are quite aware of this danger and were unwilling to entrust the issue to the Court's majority for this term--so they found a way to let the Court quietly take a pass this time around. The lower courts have generally risen well to this particular occasion in history, an occasion the Supreme Court has declined to address for the moment, and we'll just have to keep fighting this battle in those courts, where we've proven we can win. We'll keep winning.
If the Supreme Court had taken the case, as the world assumed they would, we'd be lucky to have a ruling by next summer, and we'd be lucky if their ruling resembled the winning rulings we've already won in the Circuit courts. Now we have legal same-sex couple marriage available all across Colorado and Virginia, our principal home states. Today.
Not months or years or generations away. Today.
For the Island, the legal same-sex couple marriages we've been fighting for will never replace our real
Island marriages. Not until the state of Colorado allows, let's say, four gay women and two gay men, just as an example, to marry one another in one great, big, happy, polyamorous union. That's another battle to be fought, a little farther down the road. But we need legal same-sex marriages to happen. The country and the world need this to happen, to demonstrate that love is love and every love is of equal right and dignity under the law. This will happen, and soon. And the Island needs to start planning more weddings...
Rachel, for the Island, with the help of Lucia, Caitie, Stella and Kelly, and everyone