Thursday, January 20, 2011

Annulment

After being married for 11 months and one week, Brian Feldman and Hannah Miller ended a marriage that, though not entered into lightly, was not about the love between a man and woman. Rather they were married as a demonstration that a man and woman who don't even know each other can easily get married, while same sex couples who might have lived together for years are denied the same privilege and rights. Theirs was a fight for equality.

When I arrived at the courthouse on the day of the annulment there was a long line of people waiting to enter the courthouse as the sun began to warmly illuminate the granite courtyard and columns. Behind me a man dropped his cell phone. He picked it up and someone asked if it was alright. He said, "I won't be needing it where I am going. " He went on to explain that he had been pulled over and he had no registration. Which according to him, would land him in jail for 20 days. The man behind him said, "That is nothing, I drove for 19 years without a registration. I only got caught because I wasn't wearing a seat belt." Inside we shuffled through switchbacks until we came to the X-ray machines and metal detectors. My bag was pulled aside to be searched and I was patted down. In my bag the guard found some soda bottle tops which I planned to recycle. The offensive item being searched for was my palette with its menacing grid of colors. After I was asked to open it, I was let go with a smile.

Up in the courtroom 16H waiting area, I sat down, surprised to not see Brian or Hannah. Terry Olson showed up and decided to check another courtroom down the hall to be sure we were in the right place. After the announced court time had passed, I decided the annulment might not happen, so I started sketching lawyers. Then Brian poked his head out the courtroom door and signaled me to come inside. He whispered to me that I should start sketching the court room. As I debated about whether to sit in the front or back row, the bailiff officer asked if he could help me, never a good sign. He asked what case I was with, and when he confirmed I was not with the active case, he asked me to leave. Out in the waiting area Hannah arrived as did four or five friends.

People were getting divorced like clock work. Judge Maura T. Smith would ask a few pointed questions and then the divorces were granted. Finally Brian and Hannah's case was called into the courtroom. Judge Smith asked Brian to explain his petition for annulment. He explained that he and Hannah did not consummate the marriage, in fact he had only seen her maybe 10 times since they were married. He briefly mentioned that the marriage was intended as a performance piece. Judge Smith indicated that everything was in order and she instructed the couple to get the final paperwork filled out down the hall. The case could not have lasted more than ten minutes. As the courtroom emptied I stayed behind intent on finishing my sketch. Hannah signaled to me from the doorway indicating I should join them. I feared she might attract the bailiffs attention, giving him another reason to kick me out of the courtroom before the sketch was finished. The bailiff came over to see my sketch. He said, "Nice, but you left out the most handsome man in the room."

The next person to enter the courtroom was a burly man in an orange jumpsuit with his hands chained behind him. He sat down in the chair Brian had just vacated. It seemed this convicted felon was involved in a divorce even while he was serving time in jail. When I left the court room, Brian was sitting in the hallway working on his iPhone. He showed me the final document with its official seal and signatures. As we made our way to the elevators, he suddenly ran towards the window to look down at the courtyard where Hannah was going to read a prepared statement. Watching her video had me in tears, the importance of what these two had done truly sank in. Both had sacrificed their love for a cause they believed in. I hope this inspires others to stand up to this and any other injustice. Every voice counts make yours heard.

1 comment:

Hannah said...

Thor, thanks for being there. You're the best! Here's a link to my last words on the marriage:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtAJvauakc4

And here's a link to Equality Florida, where time or funds can be donated to promote the cause of marriage equality and equal rights in Florida:

http://eqfl.org/about/