This essay is part of an article written by me and published in the Jamaica Plain Gazette (April 2006) in which various people from the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston were invited to answer the following question: How have two years of marriage equality in Massachusetts impacted your life?
The strangest thing happened this year when I sat down to pay my taxes.
It so happens that this time around – to my great dismay – I owed a substantial sum both to the Feds and to the State. So I sat down with my checkbook and the usual anxious feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when I’m about deplete my checking account.
Somewhat nauseous at the prospect of my hard-earned money would be used to fund a war that I believe is making us less safe and making companies like Halliburton richer, I wrote out the first check to the Feds. I am sickened at the thought that money that I have worked so hard to earn will be used to harm other. I was angry too that I was required to check the “single” box on my federal taxes. I’m not single.
Then I wrote my second check, payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. To my great surprise, I smiled as I wrote this check. Schools, roads, bridges, public transportation, libraries, firefighters: fine by me. And I realize that something else is going on as well: I am just plain proud to live here in Massachusetts.
I am one of the tens of thousands of residents of this state who on May 17, 2004 finally became a full citizen. In this state, I have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else — no more, no less. I pay the same taxes, and I am eligible for the same benefits and protections. Those in same-sex relationships in the other 49 states are not yet full citizens. They pay the same (and sometimes higher) taxes, yet they are denied benefits and protections.
And equality goes beyond taxes and benefits. It’s also about intangibles. When Peg and I married, we were transformed by the support and love we received from our community. Our neighbors (of all sexual orientations) were there for us. People we know — and some we didn’t know — stopped us on the street to hug us and wish us well. A street artist whom we had never met before handed us one of his paintings, saying “Let this be your first wedding present.” An anonymous woman handed us a bouquet of flowers and congratulated us. There was so much love. Equality has changed my life. It feels different, in ways I could not have imagined.
This may sound corny, but every time I drive across the border into Massachusetts and see those “Welcome to Massachusetts” signs, I take them personally.
Perhaps we should change our license plates to read to “Massachusetts: The Equality State.”