I started advocating for gay rights around the same time I started advocating for a 9 o’clock bedtime instead of an 8:30 one. So I’ve heard countless arguments against gay marriage over the years. And really, all of them are bogus. But the one that always strikes me as the most absurd is when people argue that allowing gay marriage somehow makes their own union less… something. Special, holy, magical? Who knows. However, that idea has come up again and again over the years, both on the national stage and in my personal life. (When Massachusetts allowed same sex marriage in 2004, my high school boyfriend’s mom eloquently explained to me that her marriage was less special now because she needed to specify if she was married to a man or a woman. That Christmas Eve didn’t go well.) This backwards way of thinking has never made sense to me. How does someone else’s ability to get married have any impact on your own marriage? Friday’s decision gave me some insight. Sort of. Let me explain.
As a recent law school graduate, I am in the know on all things legal. (And by that, I mean I’m Facebook friends with a bunch of legal nerds who post nerdy articles on Facebook.) So I had a good idea that the decision would be coming down on Friday morning. I couldn’t sleep the night before, excited for the history (and rainbow avatars!) that would be made the next day. However, my actual reaction to the notification on my phone surprised me. It wasn’t one of exhilaration or pride. I didn’t even get emotional. Instead, I felt a wave of quiet relief. A tension in my shoulders released. A tension I hadn’t even been aware of. It had always been there.
You see, I am getting married in October. To a man. We are straight, so even on the Thursday before the ruling, Andy and I could legally get married anywhere we wanted. We’d considered not getting married until all our gay friends could get married, as other straight couples have done. (But then we considered the faces of our mothers when we announced children out of wedlock and decided the sentiment wasn’t worth the wrath of those two delicate flowers.) Also, because gay couples can get married in our home states, we didn’t think it really mattered that much. And if we’re being totally honest (and who isn’t totally honest when writing a personal blog on a national platform?) I hadn’t given it much thought in this past year of wedding planning. It’s been clear that our country is moving in the right direction on all this, so I’ve ignored outdated comments by the GOP while I picked out napkin colors and invitation fonts.
So I was surprised when my first reaction to this historic ruling wasn’t one of joy for the far-reaching effects it would have on the lives of gay people all over the country, including my friends and family, but instead the effect it had on me. And my wedding. After years of rolling my eyes at anyone who said gay marriage made their straight unions less real, I suddenly found myself feeling like my impending nuptials now meant more.
I spent most of Friday trying to sort out these feelings. (I actually even forgot to rainbow filter my Facebook profile picture. People noticed.) What I realized was up until that decision came down, Andy and I were engaged to join a social institution that was only open to a certain subset of American citizens. And while we’ve been raised in a culture which presents marriage as the most significant commitment a person makes in life — the fact that it was limited to straight couples — limited its significance. How much can it really mean if 10% of our population is barred from participating? That tension being released from my shoulders was the realization that my marriage would now mean everything I wanted it to.
By making same-sex marriage the law of the land, our Supreme Court essentially declared that marriage in America would no longer be a discriminatory institution. As a result, the institution itself is a more genuine reflection of our country’s values and ideals — and of Andy and me. Our commitment will be exclusive to each other, but our right to commit is no longer exclusive to couples who happen to share our gender composition. We are becoming part of something we believe in — which makes our union more significant and more real.
So, I guess what I’m saying is I now see how someone else’s right to marry can have a profound effect on the way you view your own marriage. What I still can’t comprehend is how people allow their own narrow-mindedness and intolerance to cloud their view. That I will never understand. Which is fine. I don’t have to. Because love won.