With Valentine’s Day swiftly approaching this Friday, I begin to think ahead to my romantic future. I think of exotic vacations, elegant dinners, passionate nights, a home to call our own and security in wedded bliss. But I also am pained by the fact that marriage legally excludes some people from happiness, and I don’t mean just single people. I mean those who are fighting for the freedom to marry. I think of my own wedding ceremony in the future, where both advantaged and disadvantaged alike will be staring at my spouse and I as the minister speaks the words solemnly:

“Do you, (insert future spouse’s name here), take Ryan Robert Bates, to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward?” I can’t. Although our love for one another is strong enough to move mountains, change the world, and bring us to share our lives as one, Ryan cannot be my lawfully wedded husband, for it is not lawful.

“Do you promise to love, honor and cherish him…” I do.

“…for better or for worse…” I don’t see how it can get much worse… we’re already stigmatized for what we feel inside of us, mocked, ridiculed, harassed and assaulted, but I do.

“…for richer or poorer…” I can’t. Being an unlawful marriage, I can’t file our taxes jointly, which means both of us wind up spending more. I can’t collect on Ryan’s Social Security, or he on mine. We will even pay into military and child welfare systems, although our stigmatization prevents us from participating in such programs.

“…in sickness and in health…” I can’t do that either. If, God forbid, Ryan should fall ill, I do not get priority in visitation, nor am I considered to have medical power of attorney should something traumatic affect his capabilities. Furthermore, should he need to move into a nursing home, I might be forced out by Medicaid just to meet their claims.

“…and forsaking all others keep yourself only unto him…” Forsake others? Turn our backs on the ones who repressed us, the ones who forced us down? Forget about the people who took away over 300 California state rights and more than 700 federal rights that lawfully wedded couples take for granted? I love Ryan and Ryan exclusively, but I will not forsake the others, not until this battle is over.

“…till death do you part?” I can’t even then! For, should he pass on before I do, I have to prove ownership of every item to avoid taxation (that is, if I win ownership of what little we can consider our estate). I do not get the same rights as other surviving spouses, I receive no death benefit to spouses, and I am not even always presumed to be entitled to arrange my life love’s final requests!

“And do you mutually promise in the presence of your friends and family that you will at all times and in all circumstances, conduct yourself toward Ryan as becomes a married couple?” Yes. Despite all this, we can still love like every other heterosexual couple in existence. I do.

My future husband should not be forced to deal with this on his wedding day, just because we are a gay couple. No couple should on their day of matrimony. Why should my wedding have to be a political statement, and not just an expression of undying love? Why should anyone’s? Why can we not even have a legally recognized wedding?

The Queer Student Union will be celebrating National Freedom to Marry Day on Wednesday, Feb. 12, between noon and 1 p.m., in the Arbor Mall area to show that queers can love and be loved like any heterosexual couple can. Please come support our political statement, so we do not have to worry about it later in life. Please show that Valentine’s Day is not solely for the propagation of heterosexual couples. Please support equality.

Do we deserve the freedom to marry? We do.

Ryan Bates is a senior English major.