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Two words affirm most every sacred oath.

I do.Two Grooms 2 do

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.

Now what?

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.”

Golly.

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?

I do.

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The 4th

On the 4th of July, we celebrate an idea.

There was no battle that day, no event, nothing actually changed.   The Declaration of Independence probably wasn’t even signed that day.  But on July 4, 1776, a group of men agreed upon
the words that changed the world as few words have before.

I think that’s amazing. A holiday for an idea.  An anniversary of editorial consensus.  A celebration of words.

July 4th is a celebration of words.

How powerful words are, how inventive.  In the beginning there was the word.  And then there was everything else.  Doctors theorize that the reason we don’t
remember our earliest years is because as babies we don’t yet have words to name and describe our experience.  That means words are the very essence of thought. We literally create our experience of life by describing it with words.

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 — That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect (sic) their Safety and Happiness.

Along with the memorable “When in the course of human events” paragraph that proceeds this one, these are the words from the Declaration most familiar to me.  I re-read the document before I sat down to write today.  What surprises me is, aside from the two crowd pleaser paragraphs I remembered, the rest of the declaration is a list of grievances against an unjust ruler.  And what a list.  “HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burned our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People,” is pretty descriptive of the theme of the piece.  The framers contend that genuine wrongs, harm and violence had been done to the colonists..  Even so, the majority of their grievances express the longing of our founders for a strong central government of their own choosing.  They wanted a judiciary, they wanted an elected house of representatives and they deeply resented and deplored the fact that no such representation was available to them.

Lately I hear a lot from the people who think Paul Revere was warning the British and that Concord, Massachusetts is in New Hampshire.  They seem to believe the whole point of the
American Revolution was to do away with government altogether so that we might be “free.”  In fact, from the gate it would appear the Founding Fathers — and probably the mothers, too – stated
very clearly that what they most wanted was the freedom to “form a more perfect UNION, establish justice, insure domestic TRANQUILITY, provide for the common defence (sic), promote the general WELFARE, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity . . .” as they later wrote when they described the government they wanted in the US Constitution.

Powerful words.  I highlight some that seem forgotten lately in the mad rush of selfishness that describes the age in which we are now privileged to live only because of the freedom these men fought and died to give us.  Many of those who have benefitted most from our grand experiment in self-government spend their efforts and their character seeking to get out of their responsibility while screaming the house down about their rights.

Today is the day we celebrate not the rights of individual states to vote out the rights of minorities (Yes, I’m talking to you Mr. President) but our hard earned right to form “a more perfect union.”  The Fourth of July is not set aside to commemorate the rights of people to threaten to seek “second amendment remedies” but to “establish justice and insure domestic Tranquility.”  They did not fight the ensuing revolution to protect the right of every man to keep every penny he can ring out of gaming the system, from the Boston Tea Party forward. We fought to “promote the general welfare.” That means not just to benefit people who’ve lucked out and wound up with everything but the welfare even
of people who’ve had the bad taste and lack of foresight to be poor or sick or old.

Words are powerful.

We use them very carelessly in the pursuit of the sale or the job or the object of our affection or the election.  The framers of the declaration spent a month deciding on the perfect 1,300 words to describe their reasons for taking leave of a king who had “plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burned our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People” and to assert their right and their yearning to have their own government.

Lately, people who would seek to be President can’t take the time to differentiate between actor, former socialist and Franklin Roosevelt supporter John Wayne and mass murderer John Wayne Gacy.  Today, people call themselves patriots but
express disdain for their responsibility to the government that has provided us with the lives we celebrate, even as they demand the very rights that government has afforded them.  That includes paying for it, if I’m not being clear enough. It is a privilege worth celebrating to help pay for the government of the richest and most powerful country in the history of the world.

Lovely Downtown Somalia

For those who don’t want to pay their taxes, for those who don’t want a strong federal government that does the very things those men risked everything to declare they wanted their government to do on that long ago 4th of July may I recommend Somalia? There they have no taxes, no pesky government regulations, in fact there’s not much of anything at all.  In Somalia you can keep all the rocks and sticks you can eat, unless some pirate or warlord steals them from you.  You can take all your big guns.  You’ll need them when the pirates come to call.  But best of all, when you’re in Somalia, those of us who actually want to live in the United States and are willing to pay for the privilege of citizenship here won’t be able to hear your endless whining.

Now that would really be something to celebrate.

So, to those of you out there who actually do celebrate the ideas that created these United States and the commitment to one another that those men declared with such courage on that July day in that city of brotherly love, those of you willing to take responsibility for keeping and maintaining that commitment, I wish you a Happy Fourth of July.

And to those of you who think the Boston Tea Party was about those early patriots not paying their taxes I say:  See Scenic Somalia!

Scenic Somalia Awaits!

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