Last Wednesday, one longtime lesbian stood in the mostly empty Room 603 of the Multnomah County Courthouse and spoke in favor of the new "domestic partnership" registry, which was finalized on the same day. She spoke to a handful of chagrined Christian representatives, four county commissioners, and a few excitable queers. She described the wisdom she has gained from her 13-year, single-sex, single-person partnership, but "sadly," she explained, she hasn't been able to consecrate this relationship by "sanctioning it with the state."
Reality check. I'm as romantic as the next dyke, but I must ask: Why? Why in the name of closeted Vera Katz did we put so much energy into this registry?
Unlike the recent Vermont decision to make queer marriage akin to straight marriage, the county's decision lacks any teeth: There are no tax breaks, no rights to a partner's will, and no means of keeping alien "domestic partners" in the country. This registration is really only a patronizing governmental pat on the back.
The idea behind the official registry is that domestic partners can give their names to the county. In turn, employers will hopefully deem this commitment enough to give insurance benefits. Mary Carrol, assistant to County Commissioner Serena Cruz, explained that "hopefully registrations like these will become valid once they are taken to court."
Hopefully! Oh, the fair godmothers of fairies! Wave your homo wand and make it all nice, please. Wouldn't it be better if we put all this energy into advocating for the real benefits of marriage?
Are we hoping tax breaks, custody rights, etc., will just magically appear? Well, then, we might be hoping for awhile. Last I checked, we never just hoped women would get the right to vote or abortion would be legalized. True, change is slow, but Vermont did it. A baby-step decision like the county's does nothing for us. Why do you think it raised virtually no awareness? Because there was no real concession. There was no conflict. Even the Bible-thumping OCA almost let this one pass without a peep. At last week's hearing, one OCA member was exasperated and irate: "No one in the Christian Community knows about this!" Exactly. Let's have our commitment ceremonies, but let's make them count. And how will we know? Because the OCA will be the protesting guest of honor.