guest post: legal strangers

Jason Kuznicki is a researcher at a public policy
organization.  He and his partner have been together for nine
years and have been married under Canadian law for four.  The
views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of his
employer. Read more from Jason at

This week the Maryland Court of Appeals — the state’s highest
court — ruled against recognizing same-sex marriages.  The mood
at our house was pretty dismal the night of the decision.  Had the
Court ruled the other way, the marriage Scott and I celebrated in
Canada in 2003 would almost certainly be valid today.

It didn’t help that the Court decided by a single vote.  Changing
the mind of even one person would have made the difference — a
difference that will define who we are to our neighbors, our
families, and our children, perhaps for the rest of our lives.

As a family looking to adopt, we face some wide-ranging
consequences.  Some of these may not be known for months or
years.  But they need to be documented, and I will be writing a
series of blog posts that will show just what this decision is
costing us.  All of the well-meaning people out there need to know
our side of the story.

They need to know.  Why?  So that they will stop electing
politicians who demonize gays and gay families.  So that they will
push their representatives to support marriage equality rather than
indifference or demeaning half-measures like civil unions.  And
they need to know so that our children can have the same legal
protections that the children of straight couples enjoy.

The religious right talks a lot about preserving the sanctity of
heterosexual marriage.  Sanctity is great, but we have to remember
its very real human costs.  If preserving the sanctity of
heterosexual marriage means hurting or even breaking up some
families, then is it really worth the cost?  (Since when does the
government dole out “sanctity”?  And since when does sanctity
require hurting people?) Maybe as a society we’ll decide that all
this is right and appropriate. But we at least ought to know the
price we are paying.

In this series, I’m going to document all of the time, money,
inconvenience, and loss of dignity that the Court has imposed on

I’m going to keep the receipts.  I’m going to do the math: 
Adding up the extra taxes, the fees, the money spent on lawyers. 
The vacation days that we’ll spend reading the fine print, lest
someone take our children away.  And at the end of this journey —
wherever we end up — I’m going to give an account of just how much
this precious sanctity has cost our family.

It’s worth pointing out that relatively few of these costs are
government benefits that would otherwise come out of taxpayers’
pockets.  For example, a second-parent adoption is a complex legal
process that may end up costing us a lot — but it will also end up
costing the taxpayers, too.  Conservatives often say they don’t
want to see taxpayers subsidizing relationships that they consider

Fine:  Let us get married.  This cost, among many others, will

There is another cost, too, one that will be harder to

There is a quietly gripping passage in Margaret Atwood’s novel The
Handmaid’s Tale in which a young married couple has just learned of
the new law putting the husband in charge of all property.

It doesn’t matter, the husband tells the wife.  He insists that it
won’t change anything.  The wife, though, knows better.  The law
is a living embodiment of a set of values.  The law is a teacher,
and it works a subtle but often decisive influence on the

The woman who learns that she can no longer own property on an
equal footing with her husband may hold the new law in contempt. 
But the woman’s daughter may grow up in a different world.  That’s
what the law can do.

For gays, the law has taught some harsh lessons over the years: 
We are deviants, perverts, and criminals.  We shouldn’t be around
children.  We shouldn’t be treated as family.  Sometimes, we
shouldn’t even be treated as humans.

Straight and gay alike, we’ve absorbed these lessons, and it’s a
tribute to our cultural and intellectual independence, to our
stubbornness and our willingness to think for ourselves, that we
are even having a debate about same-sex marriage today.  The law
is a teacher, but as students, we can choose to think for

The law taught us all a harsh lesson this week.  I thank my
straight friends who assure us that it doesn’t matter, and that
they think of us as married anyway.  But I’m still saving my