Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 2.21.08

I Do Declare
Cleaning the house together — legally

BY SALLY SHEKLOW

We’re in the paper, baby.

Our local daily’s For the Record page — right in there with Deaths, Blood Bank Donors Needed, and Dissolutions of Marriage — now features a new listing: Declarations of Domestic Partnership. Yes, indeedy. The self-same newspaper that refused to print marriage announcements during 2004’s brief era of issuing licenses to same-sex couples (and to this day has yet to print birth announcements of babies born to same-sex parents) is now providing us space in the public record and advancing our foray into legitimacy. We’re here. We’re queer. Read all about it.

The names of two-man and two-woman couples printed in our local rag every day is a momentous shift. Now, just as undeniably as Lewis and Clark, Steve Prefontaine, and the KKK, Oregon’s homos are at last being woven into the historic fabric of the Beaver State (don’t go there).

Other than entering history’s annals (don’t go there, either), what does domestic partnership really mean? I guess the biggest difference is that we’re legal. We don’t have to worry if anyone should dare challenge our entitlement to accompany each other into the ER, make end of life decisions or dispose of our mate’s remains. Fabulous or what?

My Domestic Partner and I have been advised that we now need to add a codicil to our wills affirming that we, being of sound body and mind (no jokes here, please), do hereby attest that we meant what we said and intend for our partner to inherit our worldly goods, real property and, just for the romance of it, debts.

The thousand-some couples who have only this month been allowed by law a smattering of state rights and protections are still a bit giddy even though most of us have been doing it for years. And by “it” I mean sharing an address, expenses and cat care.

Take Wifey and me for example. Since 1987, we’ve loved, honored and tidied up after each other. Fairly domestic and clearly partnered. This winter when a mysterious illness struck our dear Pussy (not her real name), Wifey and I jointly rushed her to the emergency vet. We love our cat, but if we could bring her back to life without having to re-hock our house, we’d do what we had to. So we teamed up as home health nurses to administer injections, force-feed concentrated nutrients and drip in 200 mls of subcutaneous fluids per day. Funny, during that whole month-long ordeal of reviving dear Pussy, we never once were asked to show anyone proof of our domestic partnership.

I’m not unhappy with our new status, but “Declarations of Domestic Partnership” does sound kind of weird. Partly because those words strike me as such an odd combo. Is it just me, or does the phrase “Declarations of Domestic Partnership” conjure a kooky Southern belle/housekeeper/cowpoke — as in “I do declay-ah, where’s the Pine Sol, pahd’ner?” Any other domestic partners out there having a titch of identity crisis?

Don’t get me wrong, gaining legal rights at long last is a good thing, for sure. A definite step toward justice for all. But now that the daily is printing names — along with our ages, as many of us pretending to be younger than we are have been somewhat shocked to discover — we’re also now open to all manner of nut jobs who might be inclined to pray for our hellbound souls, or worse. This newsprint roster has been deemed “the Gay Hit List” by one not-necessarily paranoid friend.

Not that the closet door was ever bullet-proof, but you’d think in exchange for the additional risk we could at least collect each other’s Social Security or cross state lines without losing our rights. No such luck.

That’s OK, though. We’re headed in the right direction. With so many queer Oregonians publicly declaring our domestic partnerships, once-homophobic folks will surely come to see that the sky isn’t falling and the sanctity of their marriage is no more questionable than it ever was. Then maybe we can lift this whole silly cloud of inequality and get on with life.

Sally Sheklow has been a part of the Eugene community since 1972 and is a member of the WYMPROV! comedy troupe. Her column, which began at EW in 1999, also runs in several other newspapers and magazines around the country and Down Under.