Friday, November 11, 2011

The Commitment of Marriage

USA Today has a story describing a new, bipartisan movement towards marriage equality that stresses commitment rather than benefits:
A group of high-profile Democrats and Republicans who back legalizing gay marriage are calling on advocates to shift the focus on the issue from an argument about equal rights to promoting the value of commitment.….

Advocates have long made the case that legalizing marriage for gays and lesbians is a matter of equality, but those who frame the issue that way might be reinforcing a belief among many Americans in the middle on the issue that gays and lesbians want to marry for different reasons than straight couples, according to polling ....
I think this is a smart move.

There is a small slice of the population in the middle that is the swing vote on equality. Prior to Prop8, they were pretty friendly, until the opposition ran their campaign telling lies about teaching children gay sex. The moveable middle panicked, and Prop8 passed. I don't think they really realized what harm they did, because they figured gay couples had domestic partnerships, not realizing that they aren't the same, are not recognized the same, and are treated as inferior.  (BP and I never got a DP,  because, well, it's not marriage!)

Right now, thanks to DOMA (the mis-named Defense of Marriage Act), BP and I do not obtain any of the numerous federal benefits of marriage. We actually accrue significant disadvantage, such as having to do taxes twice, because the state recognizes us but the fed does not. We aren't on each other's medical plans, because that would be treated as a directly taxable benefit that would cost more than it saves. We have to pay an attorney to set up trusts and so forth, since because of DOMA, we are legally strangers on the street when it comes to inheritance and so on.

So what DOES marriage net us,since doesn't net us any of the typical benefits?

Oh, wow. It's everything. 

Every morning I wake up and feel blessed that I am united in marriage with my beloved. That we have made the permanent, joyful commitment to one another, in joy and pain, in sickness and health, till death us do part. I may not yet get any of the legal benefits of marriage, but I wouldn't change for the world the FACT of being married, of looking at that ring on my finger and knowing what it represents. 

In her recent blogpost, Susan Russell describes values that make up a marriage:
values that transcend the gender and sexual orientation of the couple. Values like fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and love -- the values that we in the Episcopal Church have held up as the standards we hold for relationships blessed by our church.
Yup, that's what the values of marriage are. Legal benefits? Sure, we'd like them in all fairness, but they aren't anything next to the experience of standing before friends and family and publicly vowing to uphold those values. I wouldn't exchange for the world the experience of being married, which I blogged for you 3 years ago.

BP reminded me recently that it wasn't till the summer after Prop8 passed when the CA Supreme Court decided that our marriage would NOT be annulled. Can you imagine what that felt like?  The sword of Damocles had nothing on it!

So virtually on the blogs, and in real life, we advocate for marriage. And person by person, we explain all of this. For example, this last weekend we were at a birthday party for a friend, and met a charming older gentleman. "How do you know R.?" he asked, and we explained that we had met R and his partner at church. As we are wont to do, we exclaimed over the welcome we have felt in the Episcopal church, and as the conversation moved on we mentioned that we were married, and that our marriage had been blessed there.

Turns out the charming older gentleman was a retired Roman Catholic priest. He was friendly (as I suspect many priests really are--it's the Bishops who are the problem), and admitted to a certain fascination with us. You see, he's not from California, and had not met a legally married gay couple before. He quizzed us, gently, on our marriage and our blessing and we responded much as I have here. This clearly delighted the gentleman, and we enjoyed chatting (and dancing!) with him during the evening. And he will take his experience of us back to his unfriendly state, and be able to witness in turn as to what married gay couples are really like.

Making a Commitment.

Living those Values.

That's why we are married. That's the right every couple should have. And that's why I make that witness.

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