Swish Voices December 15, 2010

Doing Our Part

When the vote in New York came in 38-24 against marriage equality, we were completely crestfallen. Our plan stalled. The people we loved had just been told their relationships were not as worthy of sanctification in the eyes of our state as ours was. That was not acceptable, and we didn't know quite what to do next.

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During the not-so-long ago time when my wife and I were dating, we spent a lot of time around gay couples who had been together longer than we had. These were our friends and our family, and they had done the difficult work of forging lasting bonds of love and affection with each other that we had still to look forward to. Allison and I would have been able to realistically talk about getting married seven, eight, or ten minutes after we met each other. These beautiful people who loved each other didn't have that same option after seven, eight, or ten years of living twined together. 

We watched the debate in the New York State Senate last December over Tom Duane's brave bill. We watched the despicable Ruben Diaz spew hate in the name of God, claiming Biblical justification for his anti-equality stance, as if there is any God who would tell some of his children they should be considered lesser than others. The cavalry arrived right after, and we watched every minute of every impassioned speech in defense of equality.

Equality shouldn't need defending, not in America in the 21st century. Neither should marriage. And what's been interesting is to see how both seem under assault from the same people - the ones who make headlines yelling to the rafters about the sanctity of marriage and then rush home to their third wives and second mistresses. The hypocrisy of these people is a sickening and indefensible abomination against the very institution they claim to be looking out for. 

But that’s not all. New York state senator Diane Savino delivered a brilliant, witty, perfect summary of just how poor our culture's regard for marriage has become: "we have a wedding channel on cable TV devoted to the behavior of people on their way to the altar," she said, or you could "put on network TV. We’re giving away husbands on a game show."

This is the sacred institution opponents of marriage equality are protecting.

Allison and I both come from families with parents who divorced and remarried, but that has never dampened our regard for marriage. In some ways, it has always seemed like an exclusive club, demanding the highest possible commitment of teamwork and fidelity to another person. To us, that has always been the entire point of marriage. It is not a verdict rendered by God or government, but a self-sacred commitment involving two people.

We wanted to wait until our leaders, legislators, and judges came to their senses and our gay friends could get married too. We debated traveling to other states or other countries as a show of solidarity. When the issue landed in the state senate in New York, it seemed like a slam dunk for passage. This is New York, after all, where liberal progressivism is still seen by a great number of people for the virtue it is. We practically started making wedding plans right then and there.

When the vote came in 38-24 against equality, we were completely crestfallen. Our plan stalled. The people we loved had just been told their relationships were not as worthy of sanctification in the eyes of our state as ours was. That was not acceptable, and we didn't know quite what to do next.

Things are very different now than they were then. Consecutive nationwide polls taken  in August and September found majorities of Americans now in support of marriage equality. California's reprehensible Proposition 8 has, albeit tenuously, been overturned. America may not always start at the right place, but we certainly find a way to get there, and we're getting there now. Our elected leaders continue to drag their feet, but the opposition can't - and won't - last much longer.

But Allison and I didn't wait for marriage equality to become law in New York. We didn't wait for public opinion to turn in favor of right. So much of it seemed within our power to influence, but beyond our power to control. We asked ourselves how we could make a measurable impact, and how we could live out the things we believe while the battle for rights is still being fought.

So we got married.

We do not take for granted how fortunate we are to have the law and the state fully certify that union. But more importantly, we don't take for granted how lucky we are to have each other to be married to in the first place. We are grateful and glad, and we have spent every day of our young marriage treating it like the blessing it is. It may not do very much to further the cause of marriage equality, but in defense of marriage itself, we can’t think of a more meaningful contribution to make than to treat the institution with all the regard and respect it deserves.

When equality finally comes, we feel sure that our friends and loved ones, along with the millions of men and women whose rights are no longer denied, will treat marriage with the same regard and respect. And we can’t wait to celebrate with them.

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