Until a couple of years ago this whole fight over gay marriage was for me just theoretical. Two years ago after meeting Vanim it turned into something real and personal for me. I have to say that frankly it makes me angry at times that because of intolerance, hatred and fear I have been unable to stand before my government as an equal citizen and to have the same basic rights that any heterosexual couple can have.
Even before the issue of Vanim’s visa came up there was issues of health care. Where I worked at the time I was not able to put Vanim on my insurance. It was not a policy of the company I worked for but was a policy of the company that provided the health insurance. In order to add Vanim to my dental insurance I had to provide to the dental insurance company prof that we had been together for two years. We were required to have a joint bank account and have either a joint mortgage or joint lease. Any straight person that wanted to add a partner to their health insurance or dental insurance only had to get married and provide a copy of the wedding license to the insurance companies. It is a big stress when one person in a relationship is unable to get any health insurance and there is nothing that can be done about it.
If I had been able to stand before my government as an equal citizen even seven months ago I would not have been in a situation where no matter what I chose to do it would be painful. I had to either chose to be half a world away from my children or half a world away from the person I had committed to build a life together with. A choice I was forced to make because at the time I was not treated equal before the United States Federal Government.
Do not get me wrong. I love my experiences of living in Sweden so far. I love this chance to get to know Vanim’s family better especially his mother. I love learning Swedish even when I feel it is a hopeless cause. But I am here with Vanim because he had no other option. We did not have the option to get married in Utah. If we had gotten married in another state where it was legal the Federal Government would have still not recognized it.
To not be able to get married and have the same legal rights that come with marriage has caused harm to me. I am just one of many thousands of people who have been harmed by this inequality. My kids have been harmed by this inequality. Vanim has been harmed by this inequality.
So I have not room or tolerance for anyone who believes that their religious beliefs about marriage should shape and have sway over the civil space and my desire to be treated equally and fairly under the civil laws of the United States. The Mormon’s Proclamation On The Family has no place in my life or in the public discourse. It is a statement of religious belief of which I do not believe. In American democracy we have this expectation and right that all will be treated equally in the public sphere and we give religion, with few exceptions, the right to do as it will in the private sphere.
Judge Shelby has finally removed that inequality in the state of Utah. Now it feels like all the pain and struggle for the last decade in Utah has been worth it. The majority cannot use their will to trample on the rights of the minority. This has been vindicated again in Utah with this ruling. This ruling cannot undo the harm the inequality of marriage has caused but it is a big step in the right direction.
As many of you are aware around this time last year Vanim and I decided that we would move to Sweden. Vanim´s visa was going to be expiring in May and at that time even if we were married the United States government would not have recognized it. In the six months since I have been in Sweden a lot has changed in the United States. Shortly after arriving in Sweden the United States Supreme Court overturned the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act which prevented the United States Government from recognizing gay marriages.
Yesterday at 2 p.m. Salt Lake time a Federal Judge invalidated all of amendment 3 to the Utah State Constitution which specified that marriage in Utah would only recognized between a man and a woman. The judge said that it was in violation of the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law.
It came as a complete surprise. Utah I mean of all places Utah becomes the 18th state in the United States to legalize gay marriage. Within an hour Salt Lake City was issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples and people began to get married. The ruling still has to go through the appeals process but this is supper exciting. I cried, I laughed as I read the updates on twitter, Facebook and the news through the night until I could not stay up any longer.
This week I completed Swedish course B. I received an overall B for the four areas that were tested. There was an oral test where I sat down with two teachers and had a conversation with them in Swedish. There was a section where I had to read and answer questions. There was a section where I had to listen to dialogue and answer questions. The last section was to write about where I live. I still struggle with things that are more than basic conversations but I see this as a major milestone on my way to becoming fluent in Swedish.
When I learned Spanish in high school and college it was not nearly as frustrating and emotional as it has been learning Swedish. When I was learning Spanish I did not have to rely upon my understanding of Spanish to integrate into where I lived. I also did not have to understand Spanish to understand simple things like conversations going on around me. One minute I feel good that I can see progress and then the next day I might feel completely overwhelmed at how little I still can understand. I am happy to have completed course B and I am looking forward to starting course C in January.
Last Thursday we attended the Lucia Train at Charlie’s and Albin’s school. (Both Charlie and Albin are Vanim’s cute nephews) The tradition is that on the night before St. Lucia’s day their is a procession called a train lead by the Lucia. At the school all of the girls were Lucia. There was also tomtar and gingerbread man. They walked to where the group had gathered and then proceeded to sing jul songs. It was cute. The last song they sang was We Wish You A Merry Christmas in English. Not very traditional but the kids were adorable singing it.
I made reference in my last post to how it gets dark so early here in the winter. The tradition of Lucia is believed to predate Christianity and have its roots in the pagan past of Sweden. The 13th of December was seen as the darkest day of the year. The current tradition of picking a Lucia and the Luciatåg is probably about two hundred years old. Living so far up north one is very aware of the changes in the amount of sunlight from week to week. I can understand why a celebration of this type would continue to this day. Saint Lucia lived in Sicily. She was killed for her Christian believe in 310 c.e. It is possible that at one time there was two different traditions that merged into one here in the northern part of Europe.
Today in Kristianstad was the crowning of the town Lucia. St. Lucia’s day is on 13th of December. Before that day a Lucia is picked. The candidates for Kristianstad were presented in the paper a couple of weeks ago. People in the community were then allowed to vote on their choice for Lucia. The winner was announced a couple of days ago in the paper. This year’s Lucia is Hanna Sandberg. This happens all over the country. There is even a national Lucia picked for Sweden.
Lucia becomes the bearer of light in this Swedish tradition that takes place during the darkest part of winter. I have to say that before I moved to Sweden I did not really understand a season being dark. Living here now I have a much better understanding of darkness. Today the sunrise was at 8:18 a.m. and the sunset was at 3:30 p.m. Here in Sweden you can see a noticeable difference from week to week in the changing sun. Something that was barley perceptible to me in the United States. There will be more about Lucia in upcoming blog posts.
Today there was a little parade around Kristianstad. There was a band. Following the band was a horse drawn wagon carrying the Lucia and her attendants. Behind the wagon was a procession of people carrying candles and wearing red hats. There is a couple of videos of the parade below. After the parade through the town center Lucia and her attendants sang some songs at the town little square. Below is also a video of them singing one of their songs.
|Lucia procession into chuch|
Later in the afternoon the crowing was held at the Heliga Tregaldighetskyrkan (Holy Trinity Chruch) in town. There was a procession of Lucia and her attendants through the church. The crowing consisted mostly of music being played. There was a beautiful piece Winter Largo by Vivaldi from the four seasons. This was my favorite performance. I really like Vivaldi’s four seasons though. Listening to the organ and trombone play O Holly Night was fun to hear in the church. There is something very intimate when listening to music in the church as compared to a large concert hall.
|Lucia after crowning|
The Lucia crown is basically a crown of candles. The candles were lit and then placed upon the head of the Lucia by Kyrkoherde Louise Nyman. (Just as a side note kyrkoherde is vicar in English. The vicar is the head priest. I love the fact that the head priest here is a woman. Also the Archbishop of Uppsala the head priest in the Swedish Church is also a woman.) After the crown was placed on Lucia’s head her attendants lit their candles they were holding from her crown. She and her attendants than sang some songs. After the program was complete they processed out of the church. And yes Lucia walked down the church isle singing and wearing her lit crown of candles. I thought it was pretty awesome.
The last post was about the tomte. This famous Swedish poem seen below is called Tomten by Viktor Rydberg. It was first published in 1881. I found an English translation by Steven Michelsen. (If you live in America or Canada and want to purchase tomten items you can check out his web-store. He also sells a tomten poster.) Below you will find a video of the poem being read in Swedish.
Tomten have come. Sweden has their own tradition of a being that brings gifts. In Swedish they are called tomte or tomten. Tomte comes from the word tomt which is a building lot or a homestead. Tomten are considered protectors of the homestead, farm animals, children, and the farm buildings. They are often described as being the size of a child but appearing as old men with beards. The tomte do not come through the chimney as Santa Clause does but enter through the front door bearing gifts. To please the tomte you must leave him a bowl of porridge with a pad of butter at Christmas eve.
Our tomte arrived last Thursday. Usually when I come home for lunch I let Maggie and Seth out on the balcony where they hang out until I leave. Last Thursday when I opened the door to the balcony Maggie ran to the door and stopped right outside of the door. She crouched down, her fur stood up and she began to hiss. She than backed away slowly from the door and towards the bedrooms. By Friday she determined the tomte was in the kitchen. She still is afraid to go in the kitchen. She was sure the tomte was hiding under the fridge or behind the kitchen door. Saturday night she determined the tomte was under our bed.
When Mona brought in the large tomte decoration (pictured above) into the house Friday night maggie had a complete meltdown. She has since decided it is ok to walk past him. But for at least a day she would not pass him and thus avoided the living room and kitchen. She is slowly calming down and making friends with the large tomte decoration. She has yet to make friends with the small tomte decoration (pictured to the left). Now I am sure that any number of logical reasons can be found for Maggie’s breakdown but I like the mythological.