We Did the Crime.
Will We Do the Time?
By Fay Jacobs
Frankly, I'm stunned. I hardly believe myself what you are about to read. But it's true, I saw it with my own eyes and I herewith report the following:
I'm a common criminal. Actually, an uncommon criminal, since I'm guilty of a charge that few can claim (so far) and of which no one has ever been convicted. I am guilty of this crime in the State of Delaware and what's more, I am subject to a $100 fine or 30 days in the slammer.
And I'm oh-so-guilty as charged.
My infraction? I married my same-sex partner in Canada and then went on a glorious Alaskan honeymoon.
But wait, you say! That was Canada. Delaware does not permit same-sex marriage. For pity's sake they can't even get anti-discrimination legislation onto the Senate floor. So what's your Vancouver marriage got to do with Delaware?
Can't Even Wed Out of State
Holy matrimony, Batman, not only is it illegal to conduct and recognize same-sex marriage in Delaware, but anybody who resides in the state and goes some place else (Mass., New Jersey, Canada) to tie the same-sex knot may be subject to jail when they get home. If I'd known about this before I got married I could have been worrying about it for years. I'm astounded that there was something to worry about and I missed it.
Not only is this provision on the Internet in the Delaware Code, but it's sandwiched between all kinds of other punishable offenses. Did you know that two paupers can't marry either? Hell, now there are two counts against me.
I'm so shocked that I qualify for an all expenses paid vacation to the hoosegow I might now be eligible for felon-ness under "unsoundness of mind"-another bridal infraction. Oh, in Delaware it's perfectly alright to marry a lunatic, habitual drunkard, confirmed narcotic user or a diseased person, but lucky for any unsuspecting bride or groom, those marriages are "void from the time its nullity is declared" whatever the heck that means. No jail time, though.
If Bonnie and I are brought in on charges, too bad we're not habitual drunkards or Cuckoo's Nest residents, or we could be annulled and avoid the nasty fine. Don't quote me on this. I'm not a lawyer, I just slept at a Holiday Inn Express last week.
Now I don't know if I'm the first person to sound the journalistic alarm about this situation, but I probably won't be the last.
Excerpts From the Delaware Code
Title 13 - Domestic Relations - Chapter 1. Marriage
101. Void and voidable marriages.
(a) A marriage is prohibited and void between a person and his or her ancestor, descendant, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, first cousin or between persons of the same gender.
(d) A marriage obtained or recognized outside the State between persons prohibited by subsection (a) of this section shall not constitute a legal or valid marriage within the State.
102. Entering into a prohibited marriage; penalty.
The guilty party or parties to a marriage prohibited by § 101 of this title shall be fined $100, and in default of the payment of the fine shall be imprisoned not more than 30 days.
104. Entering into prohibited marriage outside the State; penalty.
If a marriage prohibited by this chapter is contracted or solemnized outside of the State, when the legal residence of either party to the marriage is in this State, and the parties thereto shall afterwards live and cohabit as spouses within the State, they shall be punished in the same manner as though the marriage had been contracted in this State.
Yipes. Now this is pretty scary. While the numbers are not huge, there are several folks I know who have traveled to Canada to get married, both as a symbolic gesture of commitment and, in my case, the logical conclusion to a more than 20 year engagement. Do we have to pay up or go up the river? If so, do we have to return the wedding gifts? Does Miss Manners even cover these questions?
And if we are jailed, will both marital criminals be in the same cell? If there are more than four of us in a cellblock will it be a tea dance?
Ankle Bracelet, Anyone?
I suppose I could work a plea bargain, what with the state trying to save money and all, and get house arrest. I'd be willing to wear a clunky ankle bracelet and be confined to the house for a month. In fact, given my current crazy schedule and obligations, that sounds heavenly. Oh wait, would the Delaware Humane Society step in, call us unfit parents and remove our Schnauzers from the home? This is a question that needs an answer.
So here I sit, shocked and appalled that my goody-two-shoes reputation is shot. I am police-record eligible. How can I plan my calendar if I don't know if I'll be away at the big house? What's a wife to do? Pay the fine? Not me.
In the interim, I could tell you about my annual parental visit to Florida, where, when we weren't sitting in the sun or dining out with the folks, we spent much of our time watching the talking heads on the tube pontificate about gay marriage.
Happily, my family shares my political ideology as well as our personality genes. Which means we were all screaming back at the TV about the prospect of a Constitutional amendment codifying discrimination. My 85-year-old father called Dick Cheney an (expletive delete).
Care Free or Handcuffed?
Bonnie and I did take a side trip from Sarasota to North Ft. Meyers to check out the community called Care Free. It's a gated community, with well-manicured grounds, a pool, tennis courts and club house that's home to 500 lesbians. Some live there year round and others buy property as weekend or vacation spots. Folks rent out their units too, like our beach resorts, and lots of folks visit Care Free for a week or two each year.
While it was all very pretty and, well, care free, Bonnie and I couldn't see living in an all-girls-all-the-time environment like that. We love the diversity of Rehoboth and certainly feel as care free here as we can be. Or at least we did until we learned we're scofflaws and could possibly become jailbirds. (I know, it's waaay too late for jail bait) We did the crime, will we do the time?
Which brings to mind more questions. Is Queen Latifah still the warden? Will there be women in prison that look like Charlize Theron? If so, I can take 30 days. Will Martha Stewart be there, decorating my cell?
Gee. Will I be sentenced to time in the prison laundry and have to confront my fear of ironing? Will HBO want my story for The Jacobs Redemption? Can you really dig through a cell wall with a spoon? Being taken away in handcuffs should make a nifty front page photo in the local paper. In the meantime, just call us Bonnie & Snide.
Contact Fay at: FayJacobsrb@aol.com
Fay's website: www.FayJacobs.com
Fay Jacobs, a native New Yorker, spent 30 years in the Washington, DC area working in journalism, theater and public relations. She has contributed feature stories and columns to such publications as The Advocate, OUTtraveler, The Baltimore Sun, Chesapeake Bay Magazine, The Washington Blade, The Wilmington News Journal, Delaware Beach Life and more.
Since 1995 she has been a regular columnist for Letters from CAMP Rehoboth, and won the national 1997 Vice Versa Award for excellence. Her columns are collected in the books, As I Lay Frying: a Rehoboth Beach Memoir and the newly published Fried & True - Tales of Rehoboth Beach.
Fay is Publisher and Managing Editor or A&M Books, the publisher of the 14 classic Sarah Aldridge novels.
She and Bonnie, her partner of 25 years, relocated to Rehoboth Beach, DE in 1999. They have two Miniature Schnauzers and a riding lawn mower.
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