NOTE: I started writing this a few months ago and then things got busy. I wanted to be able to collect my thoughts and write something important.
I started writing this while I was listening to the Minnesota Senate debate the bill to recognize same-sex marriage, a bill that went into effect last week Wednesday. It’s a big step for my “new” state and a great advancement for human rights. I don’t want to get political (how personal relationships became so political I will never know), but I do want to say that there has been some confusion as to what a marriage is or isn’t. Marriage is a legal contract, recognized by the state. In order to dissolve this contract, you need to go to court (not a church or clergy member). Different people may believe that a marriage isn’t really a marriage if the ceremony doesn’t take place in a church in front of a specific clergyman appointed by their denomination, but the reality is you can get married in Vegas or the top of the Empire State Building or in front of a justice of the peace and that marriage is recognized as valid by every other state in the union. Unless you’re gay.
Maybe it doesn’t make sense to you for two people of the same sex to get married, but in looking around at the people I know who are–what I would call–truly in love, I’d say, love doesn’t make sense. It happens when you least expect it and often at the worst possible time. You fall in love with someone you “shouldn’t” or wouldn’t imagine loving. You fall in love when you’re heading off to war or just in town for an evening or about to move somewhere new. You fall in love when you’re already dating someone else or you’re focused on your career or you just got out of a long relationship and want to experience being single for a while. You fall in love with your best friend or your nemesis, you fall in love “too young” or “too old,” you fall in love with someone you mostly know through letters.
When my parents got married, almost 40 years ago last month, there were people who objected to their union. Not because they are gay (they’re not) or interracial (also not true) but because they were of different faiths. Not Christian and Jewish or Buddhist and Muslim: Catholic and Baptist. So, both Christian. People close to them (on both sides) pointed out this “issue,” as if they hadn’t thought about it or factored in religion when assessing their compatibility. In truth, they didn’t have the greatest first date (you’ll have to ask them for the story) so they almost didn’t end up together on their own. But, seeing them over the years, I don’t know many people who are more committed to and in love with each other than they are. They genuinely enjoy each other’s company. And, of course, they also drive each other crazy. But that’s part of love as well.
Wednesday night I had the privilege of attending a vow renewal* ceremony/paper-signing** for a couple I’ve known almost as long as I’ve lived in Minnesota. It also happened to be the 14th anniversary of their wedding, which happened in our mutual home state of Wisconsin, which doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.***
Watching them renew their commitment to each other, I got emotional in a way I didn’t expect. They have two children and each time a child was born, the non-biological parent had to “adopt” her own kid. They had to designate each other as powers of attorney and file loads of paperwork just to ensure that if something happened to one of them, the other one would have the same rights as any spouse.
Those two kids have two parents who love them and support them, who are teaching them how to be good, kind, caring citizens of the world. Their parents are crazy in love with one another and with their children, and I just don’t understand how love like that could ever, ever be wrong. I don’t need to point out the horrible examples of “straight” marriage (because I’m sure you already know them), nor do I naively believe that it will be smooth sailing from now on and every same-sex marriage will be a shining example of love and commitment. I’d hope that any marriage (straight or same-sex) would last forever and be eternally happy, but I’m too old for fairy tales. But, I can say that anyone who was at that party on Wednesday felt the love.
For my friends who are getting married (today!) and in the near future, I wish you all the love and happiness in the world. And for those who are married but the legal system is only just now recognizing your relationship as real, forgive us for being slow. I’m happy to see that love wins.
*I keep saying “vowel renewal” as if they stood up and said, “A E I O U.” I guess, if you consider it Always Eternally I Owe You, then it’s not far off.
**I hate saying that it legalized their marriage or made it legitimate, because to me (and everyone who knows and loves them) they’ve always been married. Legitimately.
***Not yet, at least. I believe it’s only a matter of time.