Category 7

Posted: August 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

September 9th, 2009

I recently completed an application for a personal background check and the more I thought about one section in particular, the more charged up I got.

It’s the “Marital Status” section. They’ve expanded it since I was a kid. I used to remember seeing categories on loan applications and counselor check-in sheets that asked whether I was “Single” or “Married.” Being single at the time, I didn’t think twice about it.

That all changed in 2000, when my partner and I chose to hold a same-sex union ceremony. We paid for the banquet hall; we hired the minister; we invited family and friends — to celebrate this special commitment. It was a joyous, holy event.

Today, nine years later, I complete the (extensive) application and I get to “Marital Status.” I see they’ve expanded the categories of my youth to include a number of today’s realities. Categorie 1 is still “old faithful” (Married). Category 2, formerly “Single”, is tweaked slightly to a more descriptive “Never married.” Categories 3 and 4 are new: Separated and Legally Separated. Categories 5 and 6 cover “Divorced” and “Widowed.” Why they need such specific info on the background check, I do not know…but I’m willing to play along.

Except…despite all the categories they’ve managed to add, they were unable to make a category for us.

I was unprepared for how sad and angry this made me. I stared at the form and considered my choices. “Never Married” was the closest category to what I might check — but it felt offensive somehow, as if the last nine years with my partner didn’t matter in the eyes of the background-checker community. My pen hovered briefly over “Married”, but that wasn’t correct either. Gay and lesbian folks have been working for this right for too long to just say “oh whatever” and check that category. I’ll check it when it’s legal and recognized.

So what to do?

After a brief consideration, I did what I felt honors me and my partner the best — while acknowledging that we don’t have a federal right to marry. I took my pen and, next to Category 5 – “Divorced”, I drew a new rectangular checkbox and added Category 7 – “Same Sex Union.”

Not sure how the data entry clerk will handle my submission — but I like to think it will give someone a moment’s pause to think about what’s right.

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