“I Do.” Who knew that two words consisting of three characters could result in such intense debate? Who knew that those two words would result in countless tears, not of joy, but of sorrow?
Today, with the Vermont legislature voting 100 for and 49 against same-gender marriage, I’m experiencing tears of joy over the possibility that, in my lifetime, I may get to say those words and have the country I have lived in, paid taxes in and supported (even when it was hard to support it) say back, “Yes, you do.”
As more states begin recognizing same-sex marriages in the same manner our heterosexual countrymen have their marriages recognized, the federal government will experience more and more pressure to take action. Particularly as federal benefits are denied to persons who are married in their resident state.
It doesn’t take much to understand why marriage equality is likely the most important issue facing same-gender couples today, but first, a little history of jaysays if I may (which I may):
Christopher and I will celebrate 12 years of blissful togetherness this year. At roughly the half-way mark, my brother, Jack, called me and asked if I would like to go shopping with him. I eagerly decided to go and we headed off to the local mall where I over-indulged myself in Macy’s madness. It was August, the birth month of both Jack and Christopher. Christopher’s birthday was a few days away and Jack’s had just passed. Upon arriving home from shopping, Jack and his wife, Debbie, escorted me up the elevator to our apartment. I opened the door and there stood Christopher surrounded by red balloons. One white balloon floated near-by.
That is the moment of my utter confusion. Why are we having a party for Jack’s birthday without me knowing about it? As it turns out, Canada had just approved “gay marriage” and Christopher was ready to propose. As I looked around the rest of the room, I noted the gathering of my friends and family, all smiling and eagerly awaiting my answer as Christopher untied the ring from the white balloon and Etta James “At Last” played quietly in the background. As Christopher read from a news article about Canada’s passage of gay marriage rights, I lost all focus. I answered his proposal with an enthusiastic, “yes.”
Something happened thereafter. The romantic moment that it was, is now something entirely different for me. It is a quest, a movement, a purpose. Rather than go to Canada and get “legally” wed, Christopher and I (mostly me actually) decided against a foreign wedding that would not be recognized by our home country or our home state.
Non-recognized marriage, I concluded, would serve no purpose other than a symbolic gesture. We could have our “white wedding” but would never be allowed to write “spouse” next to each other’s names on loan forms, insurance policies, titles, or other legally enforceable documents. Our state and our country gives permission to its citizens to think less of our love, to deny us fundamental legal protections and rights afforded our heterosexual counterparts; protections and rights many take for granted.
Thus, the crux of why marriage rights are so important. When marriage between two people of the same gender is recognized by the government we are part of, the government tells all of its citizens, “Believe what you will, but you are no better than anyone else. We are the same.” In doing so, many of the problems LGBT people face will start to fade over time, albeit, they may never fully cure.
Arguments often express that by allowing “gay marriage” the government will violate the rights of those that oppose it. I have tried to see how such would invalidate the countless heterosexual marriages, divorces or fatherless children, but I fail. Regardless of whether gays can be married, the soci0-economic issues revolving around the family unit will remain unchanged – except for one thing, our government will recognize my family as a family too.
And now I find my mind wandering in so many directions. Great joy, inspiration and hope for the victories in Vermont, Iowa and Washington, DC these past couple of weeks (two of which were today!) constantly reminding me of the losses in California, Arkansas, Florida and other battle states. So while I bask in the joy of victory, I also recognize the long battles yet to come, and I am armored today and will be tomorrow.