Driving up to the Multnomah County Building on Monday morning, my partner, Juan, and I had already decided we'd wait until at least Tuesday to get "domestically partnered." We assumed U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman's decision on Feb. 1 that cleared the way for same-sex couples to register as domestic partners would generate long lines of same-sex couples snaking around the building. After all, that's what happened when Multnomah County announced in 2004 it would permit gay marriages. Man, was I wrong.
When Juan dropped me off, I thought I'd gone to the wrong place. Even though it was 8:30 am, there was barely a queer soul in sight. Turns out I'd missed the (smallish) party of 30 or so couples that'd been waiting for the building to open at 8 am.
Inside, I did find several couples who were excited to take advantage of the new rights passed by the 2007 Legislature. Among them was a very pregnant Jessica Blaylock, dressed in a polka-dotted dress, veil and tiara. She was with her partner, Megan Greenauer, equally gussied up in a natty men's suit, tie and fedora. For Blaylock, due to deliver Wednesday, the newly signed domestic partnership document means Greenauer will be their child's legal guardian and that the couple of nine years can now save the thousands of dollars in adoption costs Greenauer would've had to pay to be considered part of their child's family.
For other couples the process seemed a bit more matter-of-fact. When I ran into Portland Mercury News Editor Amy Ruiz and her partner, Sonia, Amy said that although registering was "painless," it was also "sort of boring."
By Monday at 4 pm, only 126 couples had registered in Multnomah County (fewer than 4 percent of the estimated 3,438 same-sex couples in Portland). Basic Rights Oregon's Thomas Wheatley says one reason there wasn't a mad rush to the Multnomah Building was that there were 36 county offices where couples could sign up for domestic partnership.
But I think there were others reasons people didn't storm the Assessment and Taxation office for their partnership forms.
County Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey, one of the gay marriage instigators, summed up one of them—that domestic partnership still isn't the full equality of gay marriage: "It almost makes me want to cry. I'm very happy, of course, but at the same time I want everyone to have full marriage rights," adding, "today is just very different."
One of Rojo de Steffey's top aides, David Martinez, suggested a second reason. He thinks gay-rights milestones have occurred so quickly that Monday was just "business as usual." He expects a "trickle effect" of applicants over the next several days and weeks.
Whether the matter-of-fact Monday is because we're waiting for full gay-marriage rights or just quietly content for the moment to have taken another step, I think the "trickle effect" is significant.
For those who thought the world might end if same-sex couples were given the same rights as everyone else, think again. We are just like you, and now that we have some of the same rights, we'll get our papers in order on our damn schedule, thank you very much.