Marriage is a Word to Some, to Others a Sentence
My sister got engaged two weekends ago to her longtime boyfriend. I am thrilled to see her so happy about it. My brother and I met her and her fiancé for dinner this week to celebrate. They have not set a date for the wedding (and quite frankly, the question grates on her nerves just days into the engagement), but the planning will begin soon. The year will be a whirlwind of intense decisions and intricate attention to detail, all of which will rival Middle East Peace talks. I will no doubt roll my eyes, but act brotherly and supportively, as it is decided what style of napkin folds (swan!) or color of floral centerpieces (lavender and mauve!) will be utilized for the post-union fête. The wedding won’t be this year, thank God; I have at least 5 probably 6 other weddings I will be attending or in which I will be participating by year’s end. This includes a New Year’s Eve wedding! Huzzah!
All the weddings and wedding talk lead me to wonder about my own marriage someday. By that, of course, I mean the fact that I will likely never be married. This is not a hopelessly cynical rant about how there is no soulmate out there for me. I am not yet that jaded. Rather, I am not at all optimistic that gays will ever have a legal right to marry in America. I think that the equal marriage rights in Massachusetts will likely be quashed, as they were in other states, by a State Constitutional amendment. I am not going to write about how civil unions are not enough to grant gays equal access, nor will I pontificate about how separate but equal rights are antiquated and insulting. As a lawyer and former law student, I’ve been through the ins and outs of that many times. What strikes me as obvious about the situation is how my heterosexual friends and family so easily take marriage rights for granted. Compare it to taking away a person’s right to vote. Honestly, what would be more objectionable to the average person- not being able to cast a vote for President or to no longer have legal attachment to his or her wife or husband, to risk having legal custody of their children? Seems like a no-brainer.
In some ways, I think it's because this right is so obvious and so taken for granted that it still does not compute for some heterosexuals that gay people don't have it and probably never will. I have been invited to my fair share of weddings, and I may eventually have to get a part time job just to keep with financing my attendance. At no point, I think, has it dawned on any of the participants that I was being invited to a ceremony from which I am legally excluded. Granted, the day is not about me; I know that. But I have heard no apologies, no excuses, no reassurances that the couple marrying would support my own marriage or my legal right to it. There is no need for it, it's not something people normally say; but it’s just interesting that no one flinches to talk about it in front of me as if it were something I were able to do as easily as they just did. Friends mention their marriages with ease and pleasure without it even occurring to them that they are flaunting a privilege which recently has been tweaked and defined to specifically stigmatize the person they are talking to. They are definitely not bad people; they are likely not homophobes. Like whites inviting token black guests to functions at places like the Union League or a fancy country club, they think they are extending you an invitation when they are actually (albeit inadvertently) demonstrating your exclusion. That said, I love weddings. I am a fantastic guest, an even better date (I require little, if any, supervision.) and a maniac on the dance floor. I am just ranting that it’s a right that’s taken for granted. And at this point in my life, it’s difficult to go out with people and not have a wedding come up in conversation. Try it.
If this entry makes me sound bitter, it’s because I am. But that doesn’t mean that I am anything less than thrilled for the people in my life who have found someone with whom they are willing and happy to spend the rest of their lives. Or attempt to anyway. I am especially happy for my sister whose level headed attitude mixed with pure joy will make both her wedding and marriage wonderful. Any mixed emotions I feel about it are the product of my own insecurities or lack of faith in an electorate.
I just ask that next time you bite into a piece of wedding cake, please be aware that under our current regime, the blissful union of love in the eyes of the law which you just witnessed is a privilege for some and will likely never be a right for all.