I was gonna write a post about Jurassic Park, but then this whole marriage equality happened.
I did not always support expanding the definition of marriage to allow couples of any sex orgender to marry. Like many people in this country, I received a lot of messages early on that homosexuality (which is not a term I like all that much, but more on that in a later post) was gross and, more importantly, a grave sin (although I was also taught that all sins are the same in the eyes of the Lord so how that all was supposed to square I’m not sure). Anyway, I didn’t question these beliefs until I got a bit older, probably adolescence.
Even after I began to question whether or not gay people, or bi people (I only knew those two orientations at the time!) or people who had sex before marriage, or even people who did not adhere to the same narrow dogma of a particular denomination, were going to hell, I still was not all that comfortable with the idea of same sex unions. Even when I started dating a woman, I harbored doubts about it. I was pretty sure God was ok with same-sex relationships, but I didn’t know for sure. I figured I was willing to make choices in my own life, but I wasn’t going to advocate for legislation change for something I was still unsure of. Not to mention, when this whole conversation really got going a little over a decade ago, I wasn’t paying much attention the world around me–I had enough going on in my personal and family life at the time.
But as I struggled with some challenges and, by the Grace of God, became healthier, my views changed. I have a partner today who make me a better person, as I do for her. I do not believe it’s a coincidence our paths crossed, I believe God orchestrated it. I am a kinder, happier and more spiritual person because of her. Her accepting personality and her ability to see good in all people and situations are the qualities that drew me to her in the first place, and she challenges me to be more accepting and less judgmental. Likewise, I know certain aspects of my personality have been beneficial for her journey on this earth as well. Together, I KNOW we are a stronger, more potent force for good in the world than we were separately. I do not see how God could disapprove of this. [By the way, if you want to discuss with me my views about the Bible and romantic and/or sexual relationships, I am happy to do so respectfully. Shoot me an email or leave a comment.]
Quite a few people have discussed the role history played in the Supreme Court’s decision. As a student of history, I can say learning about the myriad ways humans have constructed and made meaning of their lives, their relationships to each other and to the spiritual has contributed to my embracing marriage equality without reservation. I know that marriage is not a monolithic institution. As Professor Marc Rodriguez noted in a class I took with him on the Fourteenth Amendment, whenever a court begins their opinion with phrases like “since time immemorial . . . ” you know you’re not going to be on solid legal or rational ground! [I’m paraphrasing, sorry if I didn’t quite do your words justice, Professor Rodriguez!]
I’m Married, No Caveats
So what does marriage equality mean to me? Well, a whole slew of practical things that are very important that married couples take for granted. The sort of things the Court discussed in its deliberations: taxes, social security, health benefits, next-of-kin privileges, adoption privileges, and the list goes on. In addition, it means that when my partner and I tie the knot legally, I can tell people I’m married with no caveat, no qualifier, no explanation about what it means in this state versus that state. I can choose to say “wife” if I want to, I can choose to say “partner,” I can choose to say “spouse,” and I can do so with the privilege of knowing that we are on solid legal footing, nationwide.
I am of the school of thought that laws absolutely do effect popular opinion, and vice versa. When something is legal, people view it differently–with more acceptance. I look forward to the day–and it won’t be long now–when saying “I’m married” does not immediately incur a bunch of questions about what that means and to whom. It means my relationship can be thought of and evaluated and treated as any other relationship, without the fact that we are both women necessarily framing the entire conversation.
Marriage Equality is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life
I am ecstatic over this right that we have just been awarded. It is a tremendous victory and it is important. But let us not be distracted from some of the other gravely serious problems pervasive in this vast, glorious, hopeful country of ours, where people still seek to emigrate from all over the world. We need legislation protecting folks against discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation (both of which is still legal in a number of states). But while legislation is important, we also need to look deeper, to the systems and beliefs that continue to destroy and divide. When church goers are gunned down for their skin color, when trans women continue to be murdered in disproportionate numbers, when we continue to breed terrorists of all kinds on our soil, we are not done.
I believe that so-called social issues can be a red herring. They are important, without a doubt, but sometimes they are used to distract people from the underlying problems. Gay marriage, or marriage equality, is, like abortion, a relatively simple concept to wrap one’s mind around and either support or resist. Economic policies and financial policies, on the other hand, are complex and can be difficult to discuss. Now that marriage equality is here, let us not be complacent, for even this issue is not isolated. Race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion–all these things are interconnected.
Here are some more changes I would like to see happen in American society. First and foremost, loss of life at the hands of murderers and terrorists needs to stop.
Also, we need continued reform of our healthcare system (thanks Supreme Court for that one, too!) We need respect for parents (no matter their gender) and institutions in place that truly demonstrate America’s commitment to raising healthy children. This means maternity leave, paternity leave, affordable childcare and a shift in society’s values so that the potential to conceive is no longer regarded a defect or a liability.
Furthermore, we need more housing options, for everyone, including felons and those with substance abuse disorder. We need real opportunities for people to get mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment. We need opportunities for people who have serious health problems to receive addiction treatment, rather than being turned away because their sickness is too big a liability.
In the struggle for human rights and dignity, Dr. Martin Luther King called on his followers to walk the path of nonviolence. He preached pacifism, and he advocated for economic reform aimed at ending poverty. Near the end of his life, King spoke and wrote of the need for people to work together to address all these issues. He knew about intersectionality.
Furthermore, he called on followers to follow the example of the Good Samaritan, who tossed aside personal safety and comfort to help a stranger. For all of us who have been fighting, advocating, or silently hoping for marriage equality to pass, now is the time for us to celebrate love and in so doing, to get of our horses and reach out our hands to the wounded and suffering. As Dr. King said in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, the last speech he delivered on this earth, “Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.”