By now, you have heard that the US Supreme Court has ruled that marriage is a fundamental right and that gay and lesbian people are as deserving of that right as their straight neighbors and friends. As such, no state may restrict a gay or lesbian person’s right to get married. Well, despite the obvious Snoopy dance that I have been literally and figuratively dancing all day, I realize that maybe not everyone gets it.
I have seen a lot of celebration today from both my community and from allies. I have also seen a fair number of what I like to call now-can-we-focus-on-what-really-matters? comments. I agree that there is much work to be done. We need protection from being fired. We need protection from being kicked out of our homes, including the big home of the United States. We need protection in the adoption process, health care, and basically every government service you can think of. We still don’t have those national protections. There is much to be done. But today is a day for celebrating. Here’s why – from my perspective.
In 1993, I had a commitment ceremony with my partner at the time. It was a big deal and looked a lot like a wedding. I had friends back then who did not understand why we would want to do anything that looked like a wedding. That is for straights, they said. You aren’t straight, so why do you want to pretend to be a part of a system that rejects you? We did our best to explain it – over and over. In 2000, we registered officially in California as domestic partners. This was a huge step for many gays and lesbians because it was some sort of official recognition, albeit separate and unequal. Many people took advantage of this registration. In 2004, we rushed off to San Francisco to be legally wed. It was an incredibly exciting time because there was a feeling that all of the people involved were making history. We did make history, but not as legitimately married couples. All of the weddings performed were declared void (which held its own kind of pain), and the whole Proposition 8 nightmare began. Several years later, we separated and experienced the tremendous unfairness of not being married, but still having to go through a divorce, and all of the inequities dealt to both of us by the system.
In 2013, I met my wife. We fell madly in love. We knew that our relationship would be a challenge since she was not a US citizen. But, then that summer, the Supreme Court invalidated DOMA and Prop 8. That meant all Californians were free to marry. The striking down of DOMA meant once married, we would be able to apply for immigration status. We got legally married late that year, and this time none of my friends asked why we would want to marry. Everyone understood. People fall in love, and some of those people want to get married. In early 2014, she became a legal green card holder. All thanks to the changes in the law – largely brought on by the marriage debate.
The tide has shifted so completely in the last 20+ years people of all walks of life now know how important marriage is. Not because it is the end-all and be-all of civil rights, but because it is an indication of normalcy, acceptance and finality. “They are married, just like we are, so that’s that.” “Of course they are a family, they are married with kids.” No longer can the question, “Is she a lesbian?” be answered with, “No, she’s married.”
If people are married, then of course they can visit each other in the hospital. If two parents are married, then of course they can both come to the parent-teacher conference. Married couples rent apartments and buy cars. They open savings accounts, and go to the doctor. Marriage was never an end, it was a means to an end. And that end is equality. Lesbians and gays who are married get to be treated the same way as straights who are married. Of course she gets to inherit that house, they were married! Do you see what I mean?
To those of you in the LGBT community who don’t want to get married, great! No need for you to do so. Be excited, though, that you can. You are no longer excluded from an institution and the multitude of rights that are automatically bestowed on people who are part of that institution.
To those of you who are offended that my wife and I are now legally married in every state in the union, I feel sorry for you. You are on the wrong side of history. And if you cannot see that, take comfort in the fact that no one will ever force you to marry someone of the same-sex. Nor will anyone force your church to perform such marriages. Don’t worry; the same constitution that grants me the fundamental right to marry, also protects your fundamental right to hate me for it. I hope that you won’t, but I will defend your right to think and speak how you wish.
It’s Butch to support equality. Be Butch.