Waterford - After it has happened, after Ann Meitzen and Joanne Pedersen walk into Town Hall, ask for a marriage license and get it, all signed and notarized … after that, it might feel real.
Until then, the concept of marriage has that ephemeral quality of a dream just out of reach.
”Surreal, I guess, is the word,” Pedersen said Tuesday.
”It's still like, is this real? Is it really gonna be legitimate?” added Meitzen. “I need to see that (license) with a seal to know that this is real, that I'm not gonna wake up, 'Ha ha, we got you. You just had a commitment ceremony, that's all it really was.' “
Today is the first day same-sex couples can get a marriage license in Connecticut. They can also marry today, because the state several years ago eliminated the waiting period connected to a previous blood-test requirement.
Connecticut became the third state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage - though Californians subsequently repealed the privilege on Election Day - when the state Supreme Court ruled 4-3 on Oct. 10 that Connecticut's prohibition represented unconstitutional discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The ruling becomes law when New Haven Superior Court Judge Jonathan Silbert enters final judgment in the case this morning. Silbert is expected to do so at 9:15 a.m.
”We never thought it would happen this soon, in our lifetime,” Pedersen said.
Said Meitzen: “It's just fabulous. We always used to say, 'If we're lucky, it'll be in our lifetime.' Well, it's in our very present lifetime.”
Pedersen and Meitzen have been together nearly 10 years, a chance conversation online leading to a string of e-mails and then a first date. The second date came the next day, then a relationship. They have been married before, each involved in heterosexual relationships years ago that, they said, never felt quite right. They have three grown children between them.
”I probably could've been married four more times. It wasn't about, 'It wasn't the right guy.' It was not the right gender,” said Meitzen, who works for Connecticut Community Care Inc., a nonprofit that helps older adults and the disabled to remain independent. Pedersen is retired from the federal Office of Naval Intelligence.
Pedersen and Meitzen plan to get their marriage license this afternoon and then be married on Dec. 22 - the 10-year anniversary of their first date.
It will be their third ceremony; the Waterford couple had a commitment ceremony with about 120 friends and family in their backyard in August 2004 and a low-key civil union outside Waterford Town Hall in 2005.
Their wedding ceremony, they said, will include the two of them, the same justice of the peace who performed the previous ceremonies, and a cantor, because Meitzen is Jewish.
”I feel that getting married is letting the world know that we are together,” said Pedersen, 55. “This isn't a fly-by-night type of operation, and we're here for the long haul, and we want to grow old together.”
Said Meitzen, 58: “For me, it legitimizes the reality. Not that we need the legitimacy. We'd be in the relationship anyway, but it gives us the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples have, and that's all we've been asking for.”
Two lobbying organizations, Love Makes a Family and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, will hold celebrations during the day to mark two plaintiff couples getting their marriage licenses, one at 10 a.m. at New Haven City Hall and another at 2:30 p.m. at West Hartford Town Hall.
”It's been eight years of working on this, day in and day out, and there are just thousands and thousands of people across the state who have been a part of making this a reality,” said Anne Stanback, executive director of Love Makes a Family.
Stanback said of the combination of support in the state legislature and victory in court, “I think it's a testament to the people of Connecticut that they are accepting this decision. There's been very minimal outcry, and I am extremely proud to live in this state.”
The pair said they are not thinking much about whether Connecticut repeals its gay marriage law the way California did last week.
”Today I'm not worried about it,” Meitzen said, adding that Connecticut's defeat of a constitutional convention, which could have opened the law to repeal, signaled to her that the state's acceptance is higher here than in California.
”I don't think it would get reversed in Connecticut with today's mindset,” Pedersen said.