I was called for jury duty for Monday. I wasn't overjoyed, to be honest, but it's the duty of the citizens of a democracy to serve, so off I went, ready to serve if called.
Jury duty cost me somewhere between a hundred and a hundred fifty bucks, since I usually work lunch and dinner at the restaurant on Mondays. But that wasn't the bad part.
We had to be downtown at 8:30 a.m. Since traffic can actually be heavy at that time (caveat: for Kansas City--we never have much traffic, thankfully), I left my house just after 7:30. Icky early, in my privileged world. Not the worst part of the experience, though.
When I arrived, ten minutes early, there were no more seats in the Jury Room. By 8:45, there were people standing all around the room, and out in the hallway. We stood for a couple of hours, until they started dismissing the people with excuses like "but I'm in seminary..." Not the worst part, either--in fact, I made a couple of nice friends, one of whom turns out, like me, to have attended San Francisco State for her undergrad. Small world.
I waited for six hours, and was never called (not even for the on-call panel). It was kind of tedious, but I talked to old and new friends, and the day passed uneventfully. Definitely not the worst part.
Actually, the only unpleasant part of the whole experience was filling out the questionaire they give you when you arrive. On the questionaire, top of the second column, is a line marked "Marital Status." I contemplated that line for a while, sighed, and wrote in "single."
The thing is, I'm not single. We were married November 8, 2003, at First Lutheran Church in Mission Hills.
But there I was, sitting in the Jackson County Courthouse Jury Room, and the correct answer to the question, in the eyes of Jackson County, Missouri, US of A, is "single." I married another woman, and The State wants nothing to do with that.
This isn't a big red state/blue state, liberal/conservative thing. It's a small thing. Not "small" as in "unimportant," but "small" as in "individual, particular, personal." Every day, individuals across this great land of freedom and opportunity are denied the opportunity to tell the truth about their lives to a world which teaches them that their truth isn't real.
There was no way to fill in the "marital status" line and not feel like I was lying. If I wrote "married," I would have been imposing my truth on a legal system which doesn't recognize it. But when I wrote single, I felt as if I was denying the relationship at the center of my life, a relationship which is every bit as important and life-sustaining to me as any recorded in the files in the Jackson County Courthouse.
The day is surely coming when it will be okay to write "married" on that line. That will be nice. Not just because gay and lesbian people are longing to have our relationships recognized in the ways that other relationships are recognized. But because it will be nice not to have to worry about being thrown into a quandary by something as small as a jury questionaire.