I’ve written a few times about how I and my husband got married on the very first day it was legal to do so in our state. And how our fabulous friends assembled a beautiful wedding chapel in their home and how many other wonderful friends attended and played music (secretly organizing the music without us knowing) and so many other great things.
I cried a lot.
Rather than recap all of that, I figured this story about other weddings that happened that same day, a few miles away at Seattle City Hall would suffice:
A couple of years ago I was chatting with a new co-worker, who noticed the photo of my husband on my desk. The picture was taken on our wedding day. Michael was wearing his top hat and other formal wear, and a friend was helping him tie his cravat. The co-worker asked who the person in the picture was, I said it was my husband, and the co-worker asked, “How long have you been married?” And I said that we had been together (at that point) nearly 20 years, but had only legally been married for 5 years. The co-worker looked confused, and then asked, “Why did you wait so long?” To which I replied, “Because it wasn’t legal for us to get married until 2012.” The co-worker’s eyes went wide, and then they said (in what I interpreted as a very embarrassed tone of voice), “Oh, right. Um, yeah, that makes sense.”
And that 2012 date was for the state of Washington. For the majority of the U.S. marriage was still not available to same sex couples until the Supreme Court ruling in 2015.
I told you that story so I can tell you this one:
A couple of weeks ago I was busy at work updating documents. I had to type the day’s date several times, and one of those times it struck me, “Oh! Wow! Today’s the anniversary of our first date.” It was, specifically, the 22nd anniversary of our first date. As it happened, we already had plans to meet a bunch of friends a couple of days later, at which event I was already planning to hand out some Christmas presents that had not be collected at the party, and a birthday present, and other things, so during my lunch break that day, I ran out to a store and also purchased an anniversary card to give to Michael, along with a silly present to give him with the card (I also ordered a couple the more substantial gifts online).
As it happened, that same day, while typing the date into a database at his workplace, Michael also remembered that it was the anniversary of our first date. He went online later and ordered an anniversary present for me. And, yes, we do that kind of weird parallel thinking a lot, and every time it happens, I remember all the times that close friends said (that year that we finally got to marry for real) that it was a little strange to think of us as newlyweds, because we had seemed to be an old married couple for so very long before hand.
I understand that not many people who have been in long-term relationships remember the exact date of their first date, nor the date of when they first met, et cetera. One reason that we do is because for most of history, queer relationships have been excluded from the societally-approved institutions related to anniversaries. So, for a few years, we celebrated the anniversary of our first date as our anniversary as a couple.
Then, the company I was working for decided to allow same sex partner benefits but only if you registered with some sort of government agency, and it so happened that the City of Seattle was offering such a registry (though it conveyed no legal benefits), so we filed the appropriate paperwork so I could get Michael on my medical and dental… and then a few years after that the State of Washington offered a similar registry, though initially with virtually no legal rights, but we signed up for it anyway, and so on…
So, technically we have a bunch of anniversaries… but which one to celebrate? And that question isn’t trivial. Go back to the story I started with. Without really thinking about it, a person who had just met me had asked how long I’d been married. That is an extremely common question for people who are just getting to know each other to ask once they find out you are in a relationship. And humans are social animals, and social customs often have a much stronger impact on one’s success, health, and similar things than mere laws.
I’m proud of the fact that we’ve been together for 22 years—if for no other reason than that I know what a complete jerk I can be sometimes (I really don’t know why he puts up with me sometimes!). I’m also extremely happy that we were able to get legally married at last, and getting to spend that day with so many friends that we love was just incredible.
There are still people who think that long-term queer relationships don’t exist, or are so rare that they don’t matter. The fact that the people most likely to publicly declare that are pundits and politicians who have divorced and re-married many times (and often have been proven to have engaged in a lot of affairs along the way) for some reason almost never gets reported. Let alone the sociological and psychological damage we’re all operating under because of decades of bullying, discrimination, hatred, and simple erasure.
That graph I include above is informative, but also a bit misleading. That last bit of the graph shouldn’t be green, IMHO, because it is still legal in at least 28 states to fire someone (or refuse to rent a home to them, et cetera) just because they are gay. And don’t get me started on all the state and local officials in various places that are trying to undo the marriage ruling, or at least ignore it.
Some people, like the co-worker in my opening anecdote, simply aren’t aware of how recent any legal or societal acceptance has been (and are also frequently clueless about how much still exists). In some cases, that lack of awareness are exacerbated by the histrionics that some bigots have gone into every single time we made any progress at all. It’s easy to think that because the bigots were screaming about us destroying marriage for two decades before we actually started getting that right to marry, that we’ve had the right longer. And a lot of people still don’t realize that in 28 states it is completely legal for an employer to fire someone simply because they suspect they might be gay.
We’ve come a long way, but there’s a long way to go. Fortunately, several of us have demonstrated that we’re in it for the long haul.
Today is the six-year anniversary of the day we stood in front of many of our loved ones and exchanged vows. We were pronounced husband and husband and I cried. We didn’t pick this date. The voters of Washington State picked our wedding date. Because we’d been together for more than 14 years when our state approved marriage equality by a vote of the people—by a wider margin than any of the other states who approved it that year. And because sometimes this things get taken away (see the entire Proposition 8 nonsense in California in 2008), we went in on the very first day same sex couples could pick up a marriage license, waited the required three days, and then had a ceremony at the home of some of our friends.
Not that we weren’t both deliriously happy to be doing it, and while we weren’t like some of those couples who had been together for more than 50 years and were finally getting to tie the knot, it wasn’t a date we had picked.
That’s just another thing that is awkward about our society’s history with queer rights. Michael mentioned that he was just recently trying to explain to a co-worker that we have several anniversaries: the anniversary of our first date (Michael and been a friend to Ray and I for more than a couple years when Ray died, so our first date was not the first time we met), the anniversary of when we moved in together, the anniversary of when we registered or domestic partnership (and we had a small party with friends), and then the wedding anniversary.
Due to cultural conditioning, the wedding date was the one that felt most dramatic. And I know that all couples have significant milestones before they officially tie the knot. But it is a very common thing, when one is meeting a new straight couple, to ask how long they’ve been married. And even if you phrase it differently, 90-some percent of the time they will respond with, “we’ve been married X-years.”
Even though marriage equality has only been existent in this state for six years (and nationwide only three), I’ve still found myself being asked by people, “How long have you been married?” And the first few times when I just said the number of years, yes, people were shocked that we had only been together such a short time. So I’ve started automatically answered, “We’ve only legally been married X years, but we were together for nearly 15 before we could get married.” And sometimes people respond to that with confusion, and then incredulity when I tell them that same sex couples couldn’t legally marry before then. Even some people who think of themselves as open-minded and supportive of gay rights don’t understand that marriage equality is a very recent thing.
Which, given all the media attention and the millions of dollars worth of anti-gay political advertising put up in each state when votes about domestic partnerships or marriage were in the works, seems a little weird. How could they miss all that Sturm und Drang?
And so, while today is our sixth anniversary, and just thinking about it and looking at all the pictures our friends took that day makes me cry, we’ve actually been together for 20 years and 10 months, or 250 months, which may explain why we finish each other’s sentences and so forth.
He’s the most wonderful man I know. I really, seriously can’t quite understand why he puts up with me, let alone loves me. But I’m eternally grateful that he does.
Merely five years ago today we were legally pronounced husband and husband, and I got to kiss Michael in front of friends and loved ones and all those people got to see me crying my eyes out.
We’d only been together for 14 years and 10 months. We weren’t one of the couples of silver-haired people who finally got to legally tie the knot after 50 or more years together. But it still deserved a non-ironic finally. And even though we had been together those years, and I had never doubted his love for me, and couldn’t fathom my life without him, there was something magical and wonderful and powerful about being able to finally call him husband legally.
I had been introducing him as my husband for years. It was a linguistic and political decision I had made before meeting him. Years before Ray died, we had had a commitment ceremony, signed some legal papers (medical power of attorney, wills, that sort of thing). And after that, I called him “my husband.” And now more than 20 years after his death, I still call him “my late husband.”
I had tried some of the other words, such as boyfriend or partner. But boyfriend sounded far less serious and fleeting than what our relationship had become. And partner—well, let’s just say that one of the times I used it, an acquaintance literally asked about the business that they thought we were joint owners. So, I started saying husband. And while that sometimes evoked nervous stuttering replies, double-takes, and even the occasional angry comment, it was the word that most accurately described our relationship. And, as I had decided a couple years earlier with the word “queer,” there is power it seizing a word and wielding it like a weapon back in the face of both the actively homophobic and the more thoughtless forms of heterosexism.
I wasn’t surprised that I cried at the wedding (and cried while we were on our way downtown three days earlier, and when strangers handed us rosebuds as we exited the license office, and when a random stranger ran up to us as we were walking away from the courthouse still carrying our roses and gushed “Congratulations!” with tears in her eyes, and when two friends surprised us with a string duet at the ceremony, and… and… and…). There’s an old idiom “he cries at card tricks” to describe those of us who are easily overcome with emotion which most definitely applies to me. But what did surprise me was how, after the ceremony, I would have a little hitch in my voice and feel the surge of my eyes getting watery—not quite tears, but definitely tearing up—whenever I said “husband” for the next several months.
I’d been calling him that (and thinking of him as that) for years, but now it was different. Because for most of my life I had thought I would never be able to legally marry the man I loved. The thought was completely unimaginable! I still have vivid memories of a film they showed us in health class, back in the mid-seventies, during the week we studied “sexual deviancy,” and the film included a scene of two men in pastel tuxedoes walking hand-in-hand down an aisle in what seemed to be a church with the narrator talking about how sexual deviation was so normalized in places like California that people pretended to get married. And it was edited to make it look like they were skipping (you could see the jumps in the flow of the image) with some ridiculous music playing. Meanwhile an entire classroom of my peers were laughing and making gagging sounds all around me.
I had lived through a small number of the most liberal cities in the country setting up domestic partnership registries that carried no actual legal rights, but gave some way to register the relationship so that an employer that decided they wanted to be magnanimous and hand out some benefits to their gay employees, there was a legal-looking paper to point to. And I’d lived through the grudging middle stages, fighting every step as the way, as we got some civil partnership or other half-assed quarter-measure acknowledgement in some states and so forth. I’d watched the bigots spend millions of dollars campaigning against civil unions, angrily insisting that it would destroy the fabric of society and so forth. I had watched, as we slowly won the hearts and minds of a growing percentage of the population, those same bigots suddenly switch to insisted the domestic/civil unions/partnerships were more than adequate and why can’t we live with that so that marriage can be reserved for something special?
So intellectually I understand why those same two syllables felt so very different after marriage equality became the law of our home state. As I said after the election, a solid majority of my fellow citizens — a whole bunch of straight people — voted to include us. They staffed phone lines to urge people to vote in favor of equality. They donated money. They showed up and voted. And then hundreds (or more) of those straight people turned up at the courthouses and county offices and so forth on those first days we could get licenses to cheer for people they didn’t know. On the first day the ceremonies could happen, a huge crowd gathered outside city hall to cheer and clap and being the receiving line for a bunch of queer couples — strangers! — who had just been joined legally in matrimony. Knowing that made me cry then. And it makes me tear up long long after any time I’m reminded of it.
Which happens to be every time I refer to my husband…
So! Today is the five-year anniversary of the day we stood in front of many of our loved ones and exchanged vows. We were pronounced husband and husband and I cried. He’s the most wonderful man I know. I really, seriously can’t quite understand why he puts up with me, let alone loves me. But I’m eternally grateful that he does.
Happy Anniversary, Michael!
A note about the title of this post: I’ve been reading the Savage Love advice column for decades, through the years before Dan Savage met his husband, Terry, when they started dating, when they adopting a kid together, when they finally legally married (in Canada), and so forth. After the Canadian wedding, Dan started referring to Terry as his husband in a very exaggerated pronunciation: “mah huzzzzben!” And I always took it as his way of being proud and a bit shocked that marriage equality had arrived in at least some places within his life time. I always thought it was cute. In a recent blog post he answered a question from a reader who felt that the weird pronunciation was an insult to Terry, or something, and Dan explained:
I started calling Terry mah huzzzzben when we got married—more than a dozen years ago—because in all honesty it felt so weird to call him that. To be able to call him that. I never expected that marriage, legal marriage, would happen in our lifetimes. And while I didn’t have a problem calling him my boyfriend, calling him my husband took some getting used to. So I played up my… well, not quite my discomfort with the word. I played up my unfamiliarity with it. It felt strange to say it—the word “husband,” unlike my husband, felt awkward in my mouth—so I said the word in an awkward way. I did what I advise my readers/listeners to do: you gotta embrace awkwardness to get past it. And I am past it now. It no longer feels strange to call Terry my husband, and I’m capable of saying the word these days without hesitation. But you know what? I like calling him mah huzzzzben. It’s less “this is weird and new and feels awkward to say!” and more “this is my own affectionate pet name for him!” And I’m gonna keep saying it.
So the poor boy nearly bled to death, and has suffered brain damage (and mostly likely several other organs as well) due to the lack of oxygen because of the lack of blood. He was reportedly clinically dead twice, but was revived both times.
Reading these stories is really difficult. I am reminded of Mr. Rogers’ famous advice when reading or seeing tragic news: look for the helpers. We have at least two heroes in this story: Jamie Brock, a volunteer firefighter who tackled to the teen shooter and held him until police got there, and Meghan Hollingsworth, the first-grade teacher who was shot and when the volunteer firefighters arrived, refused treatment until the two children had been seen to.
It’s a sad story all around. The 14-year-old shooter had been expelled or suspended (depending on which news story you read) from public school at some point earlier for bringing a weapon to school and has since been homeschooled. The day of the shooting, the teen apparently shot and killed his father, called his grandmother but was crying too hard to be understood, then jumped into a pickup truck and drove three miles before crashing at the elementary school and opening fire. We don’t know if he intended to go to that school, since he didn’t have a driver’s license and may not have had good control of the car. We don’t know why he killed his father. Was there an argument, or was it something even more stupid? And so on.
Which makes it not unlike the shooting that happened here in Washington state last week. No motive has yet been uncovered, and going by news headlines, all the media cares about is that the initial reports that he was a permanent resident alien were incorrect, he had actually completed the naturalization process a while ago. But that hasn’t stopped our incompetent state Secretary of State from proposing draconion voter ID regulations using the shooter as an excuse.
Seriously, why he killed five strangers in less than 60 seconds is a more important question than his citizenship status.
I need some happy news after that, so here’s this: One Judge Reunites with Hundreds of Couples She Married, Helped with Adoptions. Just four years ago, after the voter-approved marriage equality law went into effect here in Washington state, Judge Mary Yu opened her courtroom at midnight to perform marriages for gay and lesbian couples on the very first day. “Let Mary Yu Marry You” was in the official announcement that the court would open that night.
Judge Yu has since been appointed to fill an unexpired term on the state Supreme Court, becoming the first openly queer state Supreme Court Justice (she’s also the first asian and the first woman of color to sit on the court). She had to win a special election in 2015 to remain on the court for the rest of the term… which ends in January, so she’s up for election again.
Anyway, the article I linked includes a lot of stories from the couples whose adoptions or marriages Yu handled during her years on the county Superior Court. Here’s just one:
“In August of 2011 Whitney [Taylor] had unexpectedly been diagnosed with a brain tumor shortly after our daughter was born,” Amy Babcock wrote. “We wanted to make sure Whitney’s second parent adoption of our daughter was finalized before her surgery to remove the tumor, so Justice Mary Yu spent her lunch break the day before Whitney’s surgery finalizing the second parent adoption for us. It was a time of fear and uncertainty for our family, but Justice Yu provided us joy and thankfulness during that time. We are forever thankful to Justice Yu for ensuring our family was protected and celebrated. In 2015, Justice Yu performed the second parent adoption of our son as well, and we were able this time to celebrate with a room full of friends and family.”
So, three years ago today I got to stand with the man I love in front of a bunch of people we both love and say, among other things, those traditional words, “I do.” It was wonderful and happy and I couldn’t stop crying or grinning.
Part of the reason I kept tearing up was because it was a historic moment. A nice majority of voters in our state has agreed that gay and lesbian couples should be able to legally marry just weeks before, and so we were officially tying the knot on the very first day that it was allowed in our home state. This was over a year before the U.S. Supreme Court extended that same legal right all across the country. So we’d been fighting for the right to marry for a long time, including a previous attempt by the religious right to repeal the state law granting domestic partnerships all the legal rights the state could. So part of the celebration was for the thousands of other couples around the state who were finally able to access such legal rights as hospital visitation and community property and renting, leasing, or buying property jointly (without having to pay extra taxes if one of you predeceased the other), and so on. Much of which doesn’t sound very romantic until you read heart-wrenching stories of people who are kicked out of their own homes or barred from the deathbed of a dying lifelong partner because of homophobic relatives.
Another part of the reason my eyes kept brimming over with tears was because he had already been together for 15 years at that point, and while we had called each other husband and many of our friends saw us that way, we weren’t husbands before the law.
Another part was that so many of our friends had gone to great lengths to make the ceremony I kept referring to as “the elopement” into something a lot more fabulous than I had expected. From the surprise string duo to the incredible number of flowers, to the custom chocolates, and so much more, it was a magical day.
And then there are the friends themselves. Contrary to what some people say (including a lot of the anti-gay folks who try to pretend they aren’t anti-gay), a marriage is not just a private agreement between two people. Legally a marriage isn’t just a piece of paper, nor is it only a contract between two adults, nor even merely the list of over 1000 federal legal rights that were often talked about in the court cases dealing with marriage equality. Legally it is a binding agreement between those two people and the state. The state (and by extension local and federal governments) promise to provide certain rights to the people being wed, and to hold them to certain responsibilities. That’s where all that assurance of property rights and survivor benefits and hospital visitation rights come from, the fact that the government is agreeing to recognize your mutual decision to name each other next of kin.
Likewise, a wedding isn’t just a formality or a ceremony you do for attention. It’s an affirmation and a covenant—not just between the brides and/or grooms, but between the loved ones who attend and those who can’t but offer their support and love. When we attend a wedding, we’re making a promise to support the resulting union.
So our loved ones who attended the wedding, and those who were unable to, but had sent their love and well wishes, were also on my mind that day. And their love and their belief in our love had my heart so full, it nearly burst.
But of course, the biggest reason I kept crying and could barely make my voice work to say the important “I do” when needed, was because Michael is the sweetest, smartest, kindest man I’ve ever known, and for reasons I still can’t quite fathom, he loves me.
It may only be officially our third anniversary, but I’ve been privileged to love and live with this man for over seventeen years. Every year with him thus far has been better than the one before. Which means I must be the luckiest guy in the world.
In the his first podcast recorded after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, Dan Savage explained how he no longer felt any urge to argue with the haters. No matter what messages they sent, no matter what outrageous thing he’d read them saying about marriage, his reaction was no longer to get irritated and start arguing. And he admitted it was a bit of a surprise. “I realized that I’m just over it. They have lost.” And listening to him, I recognized that I was feeling much the same way. I’m still annoyed that so many state and local officials are fighting it, and the BS religious liberty laws still get my dander up, but I know what he means. The court based its ruling on the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. They’re done. The haters can’t win.
The Fourteenth Amendment was passed in the wake of the Civil War, and it is specifically about rights of the citizens which can never be denied by states. The entire point was to try to prevent individual states from denying fundamental rights to citizens under states’ rights claim. No matter what argument they put forward, eventually a Federal Court is going to look at their case, will point to Justice Kennedy’s ruling, and will order the county or the state or the judge to comply. They’re done. It’s over. I find I don’t feel the slightest urge to click on headlines about some clerk or some judge or whoever refusing to issue licenses. I was reading them during the first week or so after the ruling, but my righteous indignation has moved on in regards to that specific issue.
Not everyone has. I get reminded of that every time I stray onto Facebook and accidentally see anything posted by most of my relatives. And some of the people who haven’t moved on are being complete dicks about it, angrily going off on people who have done nothing more than use the rainbow filter on their user picture on social media. Fortunately, there are plenty of people who feel the other way: Restaurant Owner Overwhelmed By New Business After Standing Up To An Anti-Gay Bully My favorite line: “food does not judge and everyone is welcome under a roof of love here!”
Of course, a lot of people understand that the battle is over. Some of them have understood for a while, and have stopped supporting the organizations whose only mission is to take away marriage rights from queers (and before that they opposed civil unions), as well as take any other rights they can think of. As their fundraising has dropped off, they’re becoming more transparently desperate for cash: And now NOM is literally pleading with its (theoretical) supporters. Their fall has been predicted for a while now. I have had no doubt myself once the tide turned.
One of my favorite bits from the 2014 Slate article:
At every turn, NOM has played dirty, illegally keeping its donor lists secret and actively hiding its fundraising reports from ethics commissions. Its unprecedented campaigns against equality-minded judges represent a shocking encroachment upon judicial independence. And its constant barrage of ad hominem attacks against LGBTQ Americans turned a political campaign into a vicious assault on gay people’s dignity.
—Mark Joseph Stern, writing for Slate
There is an important detail that they have left out of the article: that 2.5 million dollar debt? It’s actually part of an even larger “loan” that their non-political “charity” made to the political arm a couple of years ago. The “charity” other money was raised under IRS rules that say it cannot be used for political purposes. So it’s a teensy bit unethical to loan it for political activity, though technically not illegal. Unless they don’t pay it back. Which, at the rate their fundraising has fallen off a cliff, I suspect they won’t.
It’s so bad, that when as part of his campaign finance statements made after the 2012 election ended (so after 2012), even Mitt Romney’s people felt the need to distance themselves from the donations the Romneys had made to NOM earlier. He’s not running for any office, any longer, and he’s probably the most famous living Mormon right now, so most everyone assumes he’s opposed to marriage equality, yet even he felt the need to minimize his involvement in the fight against marriage equality.
At least some people can read the writing on the wall…
Individuals like Tony Perkins and Bryan Fischer and organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council, or the American Family Association want a resistance against marriage equality… As if they are puppeteers, anti-gay organizations and personalities are pulling the strings, buoying the arrogance and recklessness of clerks and various other government officials and thereby manipulating them to refuse to carry out their duties… Anti-gay groups are attempting to manipulate us all into an unnecessary holy war in which they hope to reap the benefits of pointing and saying “see, we told you so.”
Related, there are a couple of stories making the rounds (particularly on the Facebook pages of your most conservative relatives and former classmates) that are trying to fan the same flames: Gay Man Sues Bible Publisher For $70M For Causing Him Distress, Turns Out He’s Not Crazy. While he isn’t crazy in that there are some big problems with Biblical translations, he filed the suit seven years ago and it was thrown out. The other one is partially true and current, but there is a very important detail being left out: Oregon bakers forced to pay $135,000 after sharing lesbian couple’s home address. So the fine isn’t for refusing to sell the cake, it’s for publishing private information of customers (who they refused) leading to so many death threats to the couple, the social services almost removed foster children from the home for fear that those loving Christians leaving the death threats might actually follow through.
Completely unrelated to all of that: one particular link in yesterday’s post caused one friend to stop reading and send me a message to tell me it stopped him from looking at the rest. It was a story about a particularly awful child abuse incident which I put under the heading “This Week in Heart-wrenching” because like any child abuse case it was heart-wrenching. This is not the first time someone has told me they wish I wouldn’t include bad news in the links.
I don’t want to get into a weird pedantic argument about what constitutes bad news, other than to say that each person who has made that request has also, at other times, commented on other links to things that someone would classify as bad news in ways indicating that they were glad I linked to it.
But I do want to talk a little bit about why I include links like that. One of the other links under the same heading was about efforts to identify the body of a dead child. I believe that as a human being (let alone a citizen), I have an obligation to that murdered child. She deserves to be buried with her name. She deserves to have law enforcement find out how she was murdered and at least attempt to bring her killers to justice. Both of those things require that she be identified. If I can increase the chances, no matter how little, by sharing the link to the artist’s reconstruction of her face, I think I should do it. That one, for me, is a no-brainer.
Also, literally no-brainer in that the reason both of those links ended up in Friday Links was because I saw the headline in my news aggregator, I clicked on it out of emotional reaction. Then I read the stories. They were both heart-wrenching, and I tapped the share link to send to my list for Friday Links as a totally visceral, emotional, non-rational surge of “Oh My Goodness! This is too horrible to be ignored!”
That’s how those sorts of stories get into the list.
For a long, long time sex advice columnist, gay rights activist, and Seattle gadfly Dan Savage has had a continuing feature on the blog of the local alternative weekly’s paper called “Every Child Deserves a Mother and a Father.” He started it because, when he and his husband adopted a baby 17-or-so years ago, they began being harassed by even more threats, hit-pieces in conservative news sources, and so forth by various anti-gay people. The charge that the reason queer couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt, shouldn’t be allowed to have civil unions, and shouldn’t be allowed to marry is always couched in an argument that children can only properly and lovingly be raised by a pair of opposite-sex parents because reasons. The argument usually summed up as “every child deserves a mother and a father. So any time a story of a straight couple abusing (sometimes to the point of murdering) a child crossed his news feed, Dan would share it under the “Every Child Deserves a Mother and a Father” heading. His point being that the mere fact that the adults raising a child don’t have matching genitals never guarantees that the children will be loved and cared for.
This feature always drew its detractors, too. “You don’t have to share these horrible stories to make your point,” or “Don’t make it sound like you’re happy to have your point proven correct” et cetera. For a while in reaction to those comments, Dan started including links to charities such as The National Children’s Alliance or The Child Help Foundation, giving those of us who read the stories of the horrible abuse an option to do something to help. Which maybe I should do the next time one of these stories winds up ripping my heart out and making we want to share the story.
I didn’t include the story because I was trying to make a political statement. I included it because it was heart wrenching, because I think it is too horrible to be ignored. I can’t save either of those kids. Sharing the news won’t bring either one back. But pretending I don’t know about their deaths doesn’t do anything to prevent other cases like theirs, either.
I don’t have any clever conclusion to this digression. All I can say is that there is a National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-Child/1-800-422-4453) that anyone can call if you suspect a child is in danger and you’re not sure who to notify. There is a lot of social pressure to hope for the best, to assume that the parent or significant other of the parent is just having a bad day. There is a fear of getting an innocent person in trouble. And there is an aversion to even thinking about the bad things that might be happening out of sight. All of those things contribute to cases like the sad one I linked to Friday.
So I share it as a reminder that there are awful people in this world who don’t always look awful. To make us mindful. To, maybe, encourage someone who has seen something like this, to call someone before the next child dies.
National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-Child/1-800-422-4453)
I had had a post written that I was hoping to finish during lunch today to talk about Pride from a positive viewpoint, rather than about the adversity we survive. But then, particularly seeing some of the angry reactions of the homophobes to today’s Supreme Court ruling I thought, “What is a story with a happy ending? Usually it’s a story about someone triumphing against incredible odds. Sometimes triumphing over a villain, sometimes triumping over other things, but it’s a triumph over something. I’m a storyteller. I should know this.”
And what is the nature of our triumph today? Well, it’s summed up really well in the closing paragraph of the decision:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
—Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority in the historic Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage equality nation wide.
Our triumph is a love that may endure past death. Our triumph is equal dignity in the eyes of the law. Our triumph is not to be condemned to loneliness. Our triumph is a hope to find another person who we love and loves us in return, and together to become something greater than we were apart.
“Love your way through the darkness.”
Our society is a collection of customs and laws. Those laws exist for the times when customs are not enough to prevent injustice. Some people still claim that love doesn’t need legal protection. The love itself may not, but the people who share it sometimes do.
Sometimes things happen. Our health fails. There is an accident. And suddenly one member of a relationship is no longer able to make decisions for themselves. The law steps in at that time, and if our relationships aren’t recognized by the law, that means that instead of a person we have loved and shared our life with for decades making decisions about our health et cetera, that person is kicked out of our hospital room by bigoted relatives. The person we have loved and shared our life with may find themselves legally barred from entering the home we shared for those years. They may find themselves, like one old friend years ago had to, trying to prove in court that his clothes, personal belongings, and his own family photo albums were his, and not the property of his partner who had died in a car accident.
So while I believe in the power of love, and believe that the best way to get through darkness is love, I also believe in the power of the law. And I and my husband deserve to enjoy the law’s protection exactly the same as anyone else.
“The opposite of injustice is love.”
Not everyone is happy about this, and they can say some pretty irrational things while expressing their disagreement. Others try to act as if this disagreement doesn’t matter. Well, Eleven years ago… my friend Barb, beloved wife of my other friend, Kathy, wrote this essay that says much of what I want to say on that topic. It’s a really great post.