I think we ought to get our language straight. The Wisconsin federal district judge Barbara Crabb ruled on Friday that Wisconsin’s same sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. A good, short, description of the principal legal aspects of the event are on Slate, here.Several articles focussed on the human consequences of the judge’s decision. One woman is quoted saying this:  “We are finally going to be recognized—after 25 years together—as a couple with legitimacy.” Her quotation can be found in the video here. This seems to be a fairly typical take on these federal cases. After twenty-five years together, they are finally going to be recognized as a legitimate couple.Minimally, these couples are getting access to the federal marriage benefit. Additionally, they are getting access to those fabled eleven hundred other benefits everyone talks about. These are tangible benefits of marrying. Yet so often, the couples getting married rejoice because of a less tangible result of the decision. Now they are going to be “respected” in the community. As here, they are going to be “recognized as a legitimate couple.”

I feel compelled to say that my husband and I were already recognized as a legitimate couple in our community, a community composed of our closest friends, our closest relatives, our children, our grandchildren, the people we each worked with. None of this has changed. On the day that we married, everybody on the beach with us knew that we had been together a very long time, even if they all didn’t know how many years it had been. They knew we had come through very hard times together—both in his life and in mine—and also very good times, and that we were going to make it. We were recognized as a legitimate couple.

The people who did not recognize us as a legitimate couple before that beautiful day on the beach were the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the United States of America. And what happened on Race Point Beach, the major thing that happened on Race Point Beach, was that the governments of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and of the United States of America demonstrated that they had come around and were going to respect us too.

To whom the rest of us, C and I, and all our kin and all our friends from Boston and Somerville and from the West Coast and the Midwest and the South, who gathered with us on Race Point Beach under an absolutely cloudless sky, could say, “Welcome!”