I have so often heard arguments against marriage equality claiming that terrible damage will befall “the family” if gays are allowed to marry; implications that gay couples have drastically different ideas about responsibility and stability, and callous indifference to the well-being of children. I have been around the block a few times, and I simply don’t see it.
My friend Rob is a single, gay dad. The “single” part of his status is in the process of changing. He recently brought a new man, Jim, into his life, and as they became more serious and committed to one another, he made the decision to introduce Jim to his two sons. I know that this was a step that Rob took very seriously.
Like many single parents, he had to weigh the risks and benefits of making this introduction and how it would affect his boys. Like many single parents, he is now making a go at a “blended family” situation. I have great faith in Rob and in his prudent decision making. If anyone can make this work, it will be him, and he will always ensure that his boys’ needs (physical, emotional, material) are met, and he will be there for them through any difficulties this transition may create for them.
Rob recently wrote an essay about his family, in the form of a dinner invitation to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. In it, he lays out the hopes and fears that his family shares with every other family, whether gay or straight, and how the current laws place such an unfair burden of vulnerability on gay families like his. But mostly, he just paints a picture of an evening with his family, and I am struck by the mundaneness of it.
When my brother married his husband last year, there was almost zero mention of the fact that this was a gay wedding (my mom said something during her rehearsal dinner toast about how the State of California could stick it). I mentioned to my brother afterward that the wedding was made much more radical by its mundane nature. Nothing special, just two people committing to a lifetime together. He smiled and agreed.
We could call the movement for marriage equality a struggle for “nothing special” rights.
Brendon Ayanbadejo, a linebacker for the World Champion Baltimore Ravens, and a vocal LGBTQ ally, said something in an interview regarding marriage equality about people having the freedom to choose to love who they want. I found myself balking at the word “choose.” After all, how often have we heard homosexuality referred to as a “choice”?
Then I read another essay on marriage in general and about “choosing” to continue to love your spouse after the “in love” period wears off. How “falling in love” is something that happens to you and “loving” is a commitment and a choice. After reading this, the more profound truth of Brendon’s statement hit home for me.
In the beginning, my wife and I fell in love. Some days we feel that, others we don’t. Every day I CHOOSE to love her; by staying faithful and being kind to her, by helping to maintain our household, by caring for our kids, by going to work, by paying bills. That is what I CHOOSE to do, and that is love. Nothing special.
The movement for marriage equality is a movement of individuals who want to take responsibility for one another. They are petitioning for the right to care for their partners, to protect and provide for their children, to stand together as families and strengthen their communities.
“Responsibility,” “Family Values,” we hear these buzzwords all the time. How can we possibly resist any person or group of people who are simply asking to embody these things to the fullest?
The other night we had a family from my daughters’ school over for dinner, two rambunctious young boys and their two moms. We had a lovely evening, enjoying good food, each other’s company, and our kids running around and making noise together. Simple joy, nothing special.
I know that many people who oppose marriage equality fret over “changing the definition of marriage.” And they will counter the argument that the definition has already changed many times (plural marriage, arranged marriage, etc.) by saying that marriage has always fundamentally been between a man and a woman. Well, that may be, but times have changed. The train has left the station.
Stop trying to prohibit the formation and preservation of families. You can either get on board now, or very shortly resemble the anachronistic and pitiful segregationists of our country’s recent history.
The LGBTQ community is only asking for something that we already have, something most of us take for granted. Nothing special.
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