Two words affirm most every sacred oath.
From the Presidential oath of office, to the seal of judicial testimony and, of course, that most joyous oath, dearest to us all, marriage. More than any other, those two words mark a beginning.
After taking way-too-long to state the obvious, on June 28, 2013, the judicial system envisioned by our founding fathers upheld the constitutional rights of all Americans. Now, all Americans (or at least all the ones in California and in a few other constitutionally adherent states) have the right to marry. What’s more, our Federal government can no longer actively discriminate against us and we will be treated a bit more like citizens in our own country.
The cynical will stir up a lot of other nonsense, encouraging bigots to believe that it is somehow the majority’s right to vote away the inalienable rights guaranteed to us all. Their premise is too stupid even to say out loud and only the most ignorant among us will fall for it. But the cynics will use that ignorance as means to rip off the gullible and get out the bigot vote.
For now though, there is a little more equality in California and across America and a lot less risk to all Californians and Americans that their civil rights might be voted away.
We’ve been fighting for the right, but now we have arrived at a new and much scarier place – marriage.
I haven’t even had a date in I’m not sure how long so marriage isn’t on my horizon. I’m just glad that I have greater recognition as an actual citizen in this country. With DOMA gone, I feel like I finally turned 21 and I actually have real-full,-grown-up-American-rights, at least within the borders of the state where I’m lucky enough to live. So, we’ve gained a bit more recognition and with growing support, little by little, things are actually getting better.
Even so, there’s this new beginning. We’ve spent a lot of time fighting for the right to marry. Now that we’re here, I wonder if we’ve paused to consider what having that right actually means.
With a 50% failure rate among our straight brothers and sisters, who have had thousands of years to work it out, I’m not sure anyone among the newly enfranchised has really paused to reflect on the simple but profound oath that underlies this right and institution.
I can write my own vows. I can take the old fashioned ones prescribed by some faith. Or I can simply agree to comply with those the state administers. Whatever the vows, every “I do” comes down to the same thing:
“I promise it’s you and me forever, no matter what. Period. I do.”
That’s huge. And a little terrifying. I’m not saying I don’t want it, but from the safety of the sidelines I can say, hats off. That is a lot. I think it’s easy to get lost in the ceremony and the drama and the celebration and hard to really grasp the scope of the commitment that marriage asks of us, gay or straight.
We’ve been so busy arguing for the right, we don’t even know what we’re going to do about the whole last name thing. Will we all be hyphenates? Will we keep our names? If we give up our names, whose do we take? What about the children’s last names? If it’s hyphenates, the exponential potential for last names offers a whole new challenge. If hyphenate child marries hyphenate child, then do they have four last names? And their children? That’s eight last names in two generations.
Is it “I now pronounce you husband and husband” or “wife and wife” or just “married?” How do we refer to our spouse? Will we just keep husband and wife? Or will there be new words for it?
But beyond the norms of the social construct, how the hell do you live up to that promise?
It has always been my belief that Gianni Versace would still be alive today if there had been gay marriage back then. My reasoning goes something like: if Andrew’s “husband” had been faced with giving up half of all his income to ditch Andrew and move on to a newer model, Andrew would still be living in the beach house they shared — one way or the other — and Gianni would still be designing loud clothing and opera sets.
So, with all my worldly goods I thee endow. Ready for that?
How about in sickness and in health?
What about when the wagon of love breaks under the baggage of life? The romance is fun, the heat of passion is exciting and the wedding is beautiful. Most of life, though, is the groceries and the dishes and the bills and the flu. My parents are still together 125 years later and it’s not because everyday has been filled with sunshine and roses. There have been times when we kids thought they should call it quits. But they’re still there.
Staying, when you’d rather go, is at the essence of the commitment of marriage. If our straight brethren and sisteren can only manage it less than half the time even with every social convention and institution on the planet built and conceived to support and encourage their bond, I wonder – and with more than a little awe — at how we will do at this.
Without the right, gay people have not had the opportunity to mature as a society. Our mating practices and rituals are stunted, juvenile and unevolved.
I look forward to the collapse of the extensive second-class conventions peculiar to our furtive and fearful sexuality. Imagine an end to our misplaced value on youth. What about the jettisoning of the possibility of a third to keep it interesting? What if we scrapped our mistrust and ostracism of the single among us by those already paired? Think of us overcoming our lack of respect for the commitments of others and bringing an end to the destructive open season on other people’s partners. Envision us maturing past the disregard for our elders and coming to know and possibly even revere our own history and heritage.
I can’t wait to see what happens when being gay is no longer one long competition for attention in a dark, smelly bar. I long for the possibility of the new and stronger community that can grow up around this fearsome commitment we are preparing to make to each other; that we have fought for the right to make to each other.
We have asked for and been given equal rights, but now we must accept equal responsibility.
Do I think it will be easy? With a 50% failure rate, apparently not.
Do I think we’re up to it?