I climb out of my Pontiac Bonneville and slam the door shut; my 16-year-old brother follows suit on the passenger side. We walk down the beige concrete path to the front entrance of the middle school near my parents’ house, which leads us into the gym. One wall is lined with a row of voting booths, each enshrouded in dirty grey fabric. My heart beats a little faster.
It is November 2004, and I am about to vote in my first national election. I had been 3 months shy of 18 at the time of the last one, when I watched my fellow college freshmen register to vote in dorm lobbies and on the quad, and when I would eventually hear more about hanging chads and the state of Florida than I ever cared to hear. Four years — a lifetime, really — have passed since then; instead of a wide-eyed, insecure freshman, I am now a newly minted college graduate, enlightened by years of studying and paper-writing and classroom debate. Or so I think, at least.
I step into a booth, my brother to my left (though he is too young to vote himself, he is an aspiring politico who lives for elections), and draw the curtain behind us. I make my largely uninformed choices for president, for congressional representative, for justice of the state supreme court. I quickly breeze through the ballot until we get to the last item, Proposal 04-2, an amendment to the state of Michigan’s constitution:
“To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.”