You know the scene: you’re on your way into a store, pressed for time (when are we ever not pressed for time these days?), and a very enthusiastic young man approaches you, clipboard in hand, and asks, “Do you believe in gay marriage?” I cringe because I want him to ask if I believe in marriage equality, not “gay” marriage. All marriages should be loving, nurturing, fulfilling – and gay, right? I wonder if his choice of words makes those who are opposed dig their heels in further and puts those not decided in a “gay” frame of mind rather than an “equality” frame of mind. Language is powerful. Is the power in his language helping or hurting the fight for marriage equality, for equal rights? Instead of stopping to tell him how I feel, I say, “Yes, I do. I am in a same-sex marriage.” I flash my wedding ring and a big smile. I tell him I have signed everything I can sign, thank him for his work and rush along – because I am pressed for time.
This week, Carol and I celebrate eight wondrous years together. In 2008 on the fifth anniversary of the day we originally exchanged our rings, we went alone to City Hall, and without much celebration, legally married in the State of California. We did not have a ceremony or a party; we were cautious due to the possible passage of Prop. 8 and didn’t want to celebrate until we were knew the right to marry would not be denied by our fellow citizens. We all know how that turned out. Now jokingly but with an underlying sadness, we refer to ourselves as “outlaws.” Yes, our marriage is still recognized, but we could not marry again if we wanted to, our friends in same-sex relationships cannot marry. We do not enjoy the federal tax benefits or other legal protections of marriage. Still, we are second-class citizens.
On Sunday, the State of New York legally recognized the unions of hundreds of same-sex couples. Photos from celebrations across the state embody the very essence of “a picture paints a thousand words.” Women and men, varied ages, different races, shapes, sizes, abilities – and fashion sense – are represented here. How many years have some of these couples waited? How much discrimination have they endured, on many different fronts? How can my fellow citizens (who are afforded all the fundamental liberties of being an American) who voted against my right to marry, my right to live out the same dreams they have, my right to love and be loved, not see this as the America we all long for? How does my joy, my happiness, my being recognized as your equal hurt society? How does it threaten you, your family, your marriage, your children, your morals, your beliefs?
I know most of my friends and family are on the side of marriage equality so most who read this need no convincing. But if you or anyone you know is on the fence about this issue, or is completely convinced marriage equality is wrong, I throw out a challenge to sit with these photos. Look at them for a moment. Look as if it were your parents’ wedding. As if it were the joy of your daughter or son, the celebration of your best friends, or even your own. Ask what any human being gains in denying rights and love and joy to another human being. If you know Carol and me, you know our marriage is “gay” – that our love lifts the world. How does that not better the human cause?