David's reply to my last post struck me hard. I'm guessing that many people who object to "gay marriage" have not thought about it in this way before, very much. I'm guessing that marriage to them is a package, one thing – not a mixture of private, very personal commitments, social implications, and legal protections and responsibilities. I suspect that much of the emotion about the discussion of this issue in the political sphere is that each side is talking about different things. Each side is feeling like the other is attacking something so precious and important to their own well-being, and refusing to give any at all.
My hope is that by engaging in this conversation, we all can at least understand what the other side is talking about. My hope is also that no one has to give anything up to find a solution. Christians, I want you to know that I value your moral structure – I don't want to force anything on you. I treasure your right to live as most befits your faith. I see your personal integrity and your sincere efforts to love all the world, and I cherish that. I believe your prayers add to the peace of the world. I don't want you to give up anything, I don't want you to lose anything; I want you to live free in the integrity of your faith.
But I also don't want to give up anything. I want to live free, too.
Maybe there is a way that can happen. If I'm right, and we are talking about different things, maybe we can find a way to all understand what the other side's concerns and needs are. I believe that if we can figure that out, a solution that meets the needs of everyone will arise, perhaps far more easily than any one of us imagines.
I'd like to tell a few brief stories to illustrate what marriage equality, or 'gay marriage,' means to me.
The first is about a friend of mine who lives in California. Twelve years ago she married her wife/partner in, I believe, a church ceremony. Together, the two women had a child, and raised him to be a very connected young man. Recently, on their twelfth anniversary, they married again, this time in a civil ceremony, thanks to the action of the California Supreme Court. My friend has mixed feelings about getting married again, after so long together, but she now enjoys the legal recognition of the state.
The second is my own story. I met Kristin 18 years ago, and married her at a winery the next year. My uncle, an Episcopalian minister, officiated. We embarked on life together, and eventually had two children. As life progressed, however, and I got older, the problems I'd been hiding for so long continued to grow until I could no longer hide them. Sixteen years after our marriage, I told her that I had misrepresented my vows, and broke them. I began to live as a woman, and to transform my body as much as possible to conform to the person I've always felt I was inside. I changed the gender marker on my driver's license, and am now, legally, a woman. But Kristin is straight, and our relationship changed. We are no longer married, and live as sisters, roommates, co-parents. We are, in every sense of the word but one, divorced.
That one is that we are still married in the eyes of the state. Even though Oregon has a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, we are a legally married, same-sex couple, as recognized by the State of Oregon. We are not even separated, as we still live in the same house. We own our property and our children in common. If we were not married, I could not claim Kristin as a family member on my health insurance plan, and there is no way we could ever pay for a policy for her without it. She would be forced to live without health care coverage through no fault of her own, while I, who put her in that position, would still be covered.
The last is about a friend who is German. A couple of years ago she got married, and we crossed the ocean to celebrate with her. We were a little confused at first – she was having two ceremonies. The first was a wedding at a state building (courthouse), where they stood before a bureaucrat, signed a contract, and made promises to each other. I don't think the bureaucrat was the equivalent of a county clerk – she might have been a judge. I don't speak the language, so I just watched. People were dressed formally, but just in suits and dresses. A couple of days later, she put on a beautiful wedding gown, and went to the church. There, before a much bigger crowd, kneeling at the altar of God, they spoke sacred vows in the presence of a priest.
Can you imagine what we could do together with all the money and energy we are now spending on getting our own way on this issue? Can you imagine everyone getting their needs met around it? Everyone "winning," and the whole world winning as we re-route our resources to alleviate the pain of others, or even just keep it and enjoy it ourselves?
Christians especially, I'd love it if you'd be willing to leave a comment telling me how you feel reading this, and if you are feeling heard by me – whether or not you think I understand what your needs are regarding marriage equality and protection of the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman?