That’s when I came to fully appreciate the crucial importance of marriage equality. (I cringe at the term gay marriage; to me, it sounds archaic, like "lady doctor.") My nondivorce divorce convinced me that spouses, of any gender, need to be considered equal partners legally and socially. No matter how a family is configured, both parents should have equal responsibility with regard to their children. And they should have equal protection in case things get tough. They shouldn’t have to think about whether the state they live in — or move to for a job, or to care for a relative — will treat them fairly if one partner dies or they split up.
As I knew all along, Virginia is among the states that seem most hostile to gay people. Its laws make it clear that it prefers not to have people like me around. But strangely enough, I’ve never felt unwelcome living here. My interactions with pretty much everyone I’ve encountered over the years — neighbors, other parents, teachers, nurses, doctors — have been without incident and supportive even. The people I deal with face-to-face — at least in northern Virginia and at least to my face — seem to act with more sense, compassion and respect than the state’s legal code would have them do.
I find that encouraging. Not everyone has to agree with a person’s choice of marriage partner to wish the couple well — or to take comfort in the knowledge that they’re protected for better or for worse.
Beth Daniels still lives in Virginia, to be with her child, but regularly travels to San Francisco to be with her wife, whom she married in 2008, during the short window of time same-sex marriage was legal and available in California.