Wedding Invites… Have at least one or two lying on your desk or stuck on your fridge? June through Labor Day weekends are awash with scanning gift registries, making travel plans, coordinating hotel stays, all for the sole purpose of being present for the lucky couple’s vows: Because that’s the whole point, right? To stand together, in churches or synagogues, on hilltops or beaches, to join in the public acknowledgement of the marriage, and inherent in that standing together, to support and celebrate this fragile union.
Granted, this is a very romanticized view of a legal document you can obtain in a Las Vegas drive-thru… but cynicism aside, perhaps 2012 is a year where the return to the traditional might come from an unlikely demographic. Even in the grand United States of America, where 30 states have statutes or constitutional amendments outlawing same-sex marriage, wedding bells ring loudly for many same-sex couples in the states that allow such unions.
Was it a coincidence that Maurice Sendak, the famed author, who lived with his partner, Dr. Eugene Glynn, for 50 golden years, died on the very day that North Carolina voters approved Amendment One, which outlawed same-sex marriage? (This amendment also bans civil unions or any type of domestic partnership). I imagine their moving story of love and devotion would melt even the most anti-gay-rights heart. Eugene and Maurice shared their Connecticut home, their love of classical music and reading books, until death parted them; their non-marriage union lasted approximately five times longer than the median length of heterosexual state-sanctioned marriages.
Tony Perkins, the President of the Family Research Council (an ultra-conservative Christian group) declared after the votes were tallied, “We applaud North Carolina voters for joining voters in 31 other states upholding the historic and natural definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. At every opportunity, the American people have demonstrated a deep appreciation for the unique benefits that marriage between a man and a woman brings to families and society.” Okay Tony, sure, many men and women have brilliant and long-lasting marriages and bring forth great families… but how does that fact preclude the possibility of same-sex couples also doing the same? In this new decade, who can’t point to at least one gay or lesbian couple who outlasted the odds, raised great kids, and given their communities reason to be proud?
I would say, with or without bearing his own children, Maurice Sendak had a profound influence on children all across the world, and his being gay perhaps only added to his special gift to reach even the most marginalized among us, as evident in his iconic “Where the Wilds Things Are” which even today inspires the rich imagination inside us to seek community.
Was it also a coincidence that Joe Biden’s comment stating he was comfortable with marriage equality prompted President Barack Obama to utter pro-same-sex-marriage words never spoken by a sitting President before, during that same week? Obama went so far as to say that gay couples should have the right to marry, saying the country never went wrong when it “expanded rights and responsibilities to everybody.” Contrary to many of those who oppose such unions Obama said of same-sex marriages, “They don’t weaken families. They strengthen families. It’s the right thing to do.” All wonderful sound bites but he went one step further when he reminded the world, “At root, so much of this has to do with a belief that not only are we all in this together but all of us are equal in terms of dignity and in terms of respect, and everybody deserves a shot…” Perhaps, most newsworthy is Obama also stated that his goal is for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.
As we all slip into our wedding finery this summer, attending nuptials from coast to coast, let’s consider just how valuable extending these basic civil rights, that of the federal government legalizing a civil marriage for same-sex couples, are in terms of dignity and respect. Look around your wedding tables, at the “single” folks there, with “a friend” or “a roommate.” Your cousin who never married or the bachelor Uncle, or the shy teenager who has bit his nails to the quick: all these marginalized relatives and friends need to feel, need to know, there is not only a symbolic place atop the white-tiered-cake but a legitimate place sanctioned by our federal government. Perhaps this will be the only way to stop our gay and lesbian youth from throwing themselves from the bridge, or from their roommates spying on them and casting their web of hatred across the digital realms.
Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned equality extended to all citizens when he voiced his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, eloquently weaving in the lyrics of “America” our first national anthem:
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
To this I can only add – I Do …