You wondered if it would happen. To you. And then it did.
You met someone. You fell in love (both of you, with each other!) As you spent more time together, you imagined spending your lives together.
You planned a vacation together, because long ago on a vacation, you learned pretty quickly if people are meant (or able!) to spend long stretches of time together. Previously, this had worked out conclusively: not. But things seemed promising in new ways, this time, and worth a try. Best of all, you both agreed.
And so you explored the idea, and the actuality, of vacationing together. You booked a cruise, something new for both of you.
A cruise to Alaska, with a stop in Victoria, British Columbia. In another country, Canada, that suddenly was marrying everyone – even you two!
Thus your vacation cruise became an unexpected but glorious honeymoon: you got married on the northbound leg, at a magistrate’s office in Victoria. Married! Something you never thought would happen; you hadn’t ever wondered.
You returned home to the Golden State, knowing your marriage was foreign in many ways. Your state wouldn’t recognize it; your nation wouldn’t honor it. But you were lucky to have family, and also family of choice, who cherished your marriage despite its Northern hue.
That chatter from the marriage denialists about “just a piece of paper” you’d heard (and said!) while growing up was untrue: sure, it was a piece of paper, but not “just.” Being married made the two of you seem different – you were married, and that meant something apart from “committed” or “partnered” or “together.”
You were happy. Life was good.
You never expected it, but two years later your state’s Supreme Court ruled that marriages would be permitted. And they also ruled that marriages performed elsewhere – yours! – would be recognized as true, just as you had known all along it was. The state’s highest court was saying: this marriage, though Canadian, is valid.
But you worried. Prop 8 was on the ballot that fall. You could foresee your newly-valid-in-California marriage might be invalidated by the voters. Shouldn’t you two get married in California? Wouldn’t you breathe easier if (just like all the other California couples who were getting married now) you did, too?
If November’s voters then took away your right to marry, you would neverthless possess a legal California marriage license. Couldn’t hurt, right? You would have a piece of paper (there it was again!) to prove it.
But the county registrar would not marry you – you were already married, in a marriage now recognized by the state of California. “We can’t marry you – you’re already married!” you are told by the county registrar.
No California marriage license for you.
And that fall, a barely victorious Prop 8 snatched away marriage rights. The 18,000 marriage licenses issued before the November vote, the court says the following spring, are still valid. But is yours? You have a Canadian marriage certificate, one the court said was newly valid when it made marriage legal. It is dated long before California made a marriage like yours legal. But your marriage is still legal, isn’t it?
Are you back where you started? Married in Canada but not married in California? Or are you possibly worse off? Married in Canada, in a marriage once recognized in California, but with no way to prove it except by prevailing upon the goodwill of those you need to convince?
You have a marriage the court once said was valid. Your marriage is among those the court said they couldn’t address when upholding Prop 8 (since no one asked them to rule on its validity): a legal marriage performed elsewhere, long before California recognized it, subsequently recognized but not memorialized. And the time of marriage equality has passed.
Prop 8 opponents warned there would be “limbo marriages.” You wondered if it would happen.