With all the discussion about marriage equality, I’ve heard arguments that included using different language for marriage-equivalents between two people of the same gender to protect the traditional definition of marriage. Well, I would like to suggest that if that is the case, let’s also find a lesser name for the union between two people who were previously married to other people since divorce historically is not allowed except under very specific situations in some traditions. Let’s also rename the union that includes one or both individuals who have betrayed his or her spouse with infidelity, because certainly this cannot be considered a sacred union. We should also find a different word for a “husband” who doesn’t provide for his family, because that doesn’t meet the traditional role of husband defined by many societies. Perhaps we also find another word for “wife” for a woman who doesn’t stay home to care for the family, and instead works to provide for the family. And a different name for a couple who chooses not to have or cannot have children other than “married.” If we’re going to argue for the definition of traditional marriage, which for the record has nothing to do with what some folks suggest, let’s keep the word “marriage” for a man and a woman who only have been married to one another, have been completely faithful, only have sex to propagate, where the husband works to earn a living, and the wife stays home to care for the children, they don’t use birth control, and they have regular sex, because most traditions require that as part of a “real” marriage.
If these limitations are not possible, then let’s use the word “marriage” for a ceremony in which two adults who have no legal reason they cannot otherwise be married, and who love one another, are joined in wedlock. You see, the definition of marriage is becoming more inclusive all over the world, including countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Africa. Nothing anyone says or does at this point will change this fact. Eventually, the United States Supreme Court will grant all couples the right to marry. Eventually, all 50 states will grant permission to all couples to marry. Perhaps this year. Perhaps next year. Perhaps in 10 years, but eventually, this will be the case. It is inevitable. Those who attempt to stop or slow that process will be seen as having been on the wrong side of history. How our descendants will perceive those of you who drag your heels will be seen in the future.
Same-sex marriage may never be permitted in Muslim countries or where other religiously-orthodox governments exist. I understand that those who adhere to certain religious traditions do not support marriage equality, but state-sanctioned marriage has nothing to do with religion. The state grants permission for an atheist couple to be just as married as a Hasidic Jewish couple.
For the record, my husband and I had a religious ceremony and, as far as we are concerned, we are married in the eyes of God. Yes, we have a registered domestic partnership through the state, but that doesn’t count nearly as strongly to us as our marriage vows, which our minister officiated. Our vows are between God and us as a couple. I would suggest no one has a right to challenge the marriage celebrated in the eyes of God, nor how we call our marriage . No one.
What I know is that one day, my husband and I will be able to be legally married in our home state of California. Until that day, I will not stand idly by and let others insist how my husband and I should define our relationship, anymore than I would insist how others should define their marriages.
Today, June 24, 2011, New York became the sixth state in the republic to provide marriage equality whether a couple is heteroamorous or homoamorous when their State Senate voted 33-29 for the bill. Previous states that have provided marriage equality include Massachussets, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire. The District of Columbia and the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon also allow the same rights. The population of these original five states equals 15.63 million American citizens. New York adds another 19.3 million people, more than doubling the number of citizens who now have complete freedom to marry the partner of their choice.
It is a momentous day because New York has shown that men and women of conscience can come together in honest debate and negotiation to structure a plan that works for all its citizens. There were compromises on both sides of the equation, but the whole is what truly matters. The New York legislature was wise enough to ensure that this bill did not affect religious organizations and their ability to choose the couples they would join. This has nothing to do with religion. It is a state issue of equality. The small details of their compromises will barely be remembered, but the wedding day that joined Dad and Papa, or Mom and Mama, will be just as important to their children as my parents’ wedding pictures are to me.
When my mother died, I went through her photographs. As the family historian, it fell on me to maintain these photos that included my parent’s wedding pictures from November 1956. As I wandered through the pages of this vibrant couple’s memories, neither of whom were now here to remember them, I recognized this as the starting point toward our family.
Now, the children of LGBT couples will be able to have the same memories as straight couples do. It is as important to them as it is to me. My wedding pictures with my now ex-wife, Barbara, from 1977 are still as beautiful as the photos of my marriage to my husband, David, in 2006.
As we celebrate this victory for equal rights in our country, we must also ask ourselves who is next? Which state next will take the appropriate actions to ensure that 100% of American citizens will see in their lifetimes a nation that will not leave anyone behind regarding equality. Equality is not limited to marriage. Equality must be pervasive in every area of our lives. If one individual does not have equal rights in our country, then none of us have equal rights. As it stands, some people continue to be offered more freedom than others. This cannot be what we mean by the beginning of the second paragraph in the Declaration of Independence when the signateurs affirmed:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
~ The Declaration of Independence (USHistory.org, 1776)
Since May 17, 2004, when Massachussets became the first state in the Union to finally attain freedom for all regarding marriage, our country has been on a trek toward consistency. Eventually, marriage equality will become the law of the nation, and our descendants will raise their eyebrows when their history teachers tell them that at one time, gay people couldn’t get married. As I’ve seen firsthand as a classroom teacher, this same response occurs when the young people are told that at one time Blacks and Whites were not allowed to marry. We do not call marriage between mixed-race couples anything other than marriage. That is the way it will be in the years to come about marriage for same-sex couples. It will simply be marriage.
In many ways, our country is like a majestic redwood; no matter how much shade is in our way, we always stretch toward the light. Today, we have stretched a little bit higher toward that light.
“2010 Resident Population Data” (2010) U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved June 24, 2011 f
USHistory.org (1999) “The Declaration of Independence.” USHistory.org. Retrieved from http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/.
As I listened to CNN report on the possibility of New York being the fifth state in the country to allow same-sex marriage, a question popped into my head: If one is fully an American citizen, why is it possible for him or her to have different rights than other American citizens? Should my status as an American supersede every other subgroup title I carry, including gay, Latino, Native American, European, dark-skinned, heavy-set, short, parent, grandfather, adoptee, or anything else? I suggest it should.
When I attended school as a child, I learned the Pledge of Allegiance. We said:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, [under God (added in 1954),] indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” ~ Francis Bellamy (1892)
I cannot imagine that when Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892 that he, as a Baptist minister and christian socialist, would have imagined that this statement would mean Blacks, Asians, Latinos, women, gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals; however, it does. Bellamy did write, after all, that “[a] democracy like ours cannot afford to throw itself open to a world where every man is a lawmaker, every dull-witted or fanatical immigrant admitted to our citizenship is a bane to the commonwealth; where all classes of society merge insensibly into one another (Beato, 2010).” Much to what I’m certain would be Bellamy’s chagrin, we are merging into one distinct American society. So, why then are there different levels of citizenship in our republic?
Nothing is simpler than layering a group by status. The “haves” have more than the “have-nots.” Land owners had more power than the slaves. The European-based pioneers in the West decimated the indigenous people across the American territories. Experiences like these repeat themselves time and again because the status of one group is perceived as higher or lower than another. We face an issue of status today as gay couples are disallowed full marriage rights in the United States of America.
One issue I have with those who support equal marriage rights is that they perpetuate the current lexicon by claiming we are fighting for same-sex marriage rights. The discussion should be about making American citizenship the same for everyone by allowing every individual the right to marry whomever he or she chooses to marry. I understand the questions about relatives marrying, even though the current science does not support many of those arguments. I understand the age requirements for marriage. Children cannot make a healthy choice about marriage, and they should not be asked to be in that position. The paternalism of government has continued to encourage the placement of the gay and lesbian community within the same spectrum as children: the LGBT community apparently cannot make a healthy choice to marry any more than children can.
If one is an adult American citizen, one should be able to marry the person of his or her choice. That’s the whole concept in a nutshell. This is true marriage equality. It has nothing to do with religion. It has nothing to do with region or history. An American anywhere in the United States may marry the person of his or her choice. Which individual or group has the right to deny anyone that right or any other right? Our only job as a country is to ensure that all rights are assured in every state of the union. That is freedom. When we assure everyone have the same rights, then we can sleep soundly knowing that we have the “liberty and justice for all” promised in our Pledge of Allegiance and our Constitution.
Beato, Greg, (2010, Dec. 16). Face the Flag, Reason
Bumper sticker (2011) “Love is gender blind.” Retrieved from http://middleagedqueers.com/?p=5575