A Gay Marriage Parable
By Roy Steele
I was up at the crack of dawn last Thursday here in California, because I wanted to hear the Supreme Court’s decision in the two gay marriage cases, as the world learned about them. I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, but made sure that I was awake before 6:00am.
The terrific and informative SCOTUS Blog --- live blogs from the Court on decision days, so I joined thousands of others on their website, as they live blogged from the Court, and relayed each decision to their huge online audience, as they were announced.
I was disappointed that the Court didn’t announce their ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry, and United States v. Windsor, like everyone else. I also knew that if they didn’t announce the decisions last Thursday, that the Court would make the announcement this week (on Monday June 24th or Thursday June 27th).
I remember the first time the notion of gay marriage – or marrying one’s gay partner – entered my conscience.
The Supreme Court in the state of Hawai’i had ruled in 1996 that the state discriminated against same-sex couples by denying them a marriage license, under the state’s equal protection clause. The court didn’t mandate that gay marriage was a fundamental right that the state had to recognize, but they did order the state legislature to study and address the issue with the appropriate legislation.
News of the Hawai’i Supreme Court ruling was like a shot heard ‘round the world, a mere decade and a half ago.
"Marry a boyfriend?" Right. And I suppose Tinkerbell will be the maid of honor. "Two girlfriends marrying?" Only if Joan Armatrading provides the music. "Marry a gay partner?" Whatever hallucinogenic drug you're on, I wanna go on the same trip man, please share. "Two lesbians walking down the aisle to get married?" Are you kidding me? Are the Harley's in the wedding party too? Anyone hearing these scenarios had the same reaction, not bloody likely to happen. Ever.
I thought it was funny, and somebody was pulling my leg, because it was a practical joke. Even when every news outlet reported it, I dismissed the news as a gimmick that would never be.
In the late 1990’s commitment ceremonies were just starting to be the rage. A gay couple would make a commitment to each other as life partners, and have a ceremony to reaffirm that commitment in front of friends and family. The couple would send out invitations to the ceremony (think wedding). A priest, pastor or rabbi, would officiate and offer the relationship a blessing, and a big party would follow the ceremony (think wedding reception).
I was ambivalent about commitment ceremonies. I thought that a commitment ceremony was too hetero-normative, and couldn’t comprehend why any gay couple would want to emulate a “straight” wedding, or a “straight” relationship.
I went to a commitment ceremony that was lovely in every way, it was fun, and I was genuinely happy for my two friends. What I found alarming and disarming, was that a woman seated next to me at the “party” asked me an idiotic question, out loud (which meant that everyone at the table heard it).
She said that she was "curious" about the happy gay couple's committed relationship, and wanted to know "who was the woman in the relationship, and who was the man." And I said "seriously? That's your question? That's easy to answer. Which one is wearing new Manolo Blahnik pumps? That will tell you who the woman is."
She turned around in her chair and looked at the couple, who were talking to guests at the next table, and craned her neck to look at their shoes and was disappointed that she didn't see a pump.
That wasn’t the first time I heard that question, and it wasn’t the last time either. The woman seemed both sincere and dumb, and I knew there was no malice intended. I was still offended though. She believed that a gay man in a committed relationship would close the door and turn into Lyndsay Wagner herself, the real "Bionic Woman" who could do everything. Because only a relationship that had a man and a woman, or a man masquerading as a woman, was a viable and valid relationship.
I found the question offensive, and since I abhor conflict, I mumbled and fumbled and stumbled, before I could offer a real and honest answer.
I tried to explain that gay relationships didn’t comport with the straight married stereotypes we see portrayed in popular culture. Ozzie and Harriet and Leave it to Beaver were before my time, but weren't before her time, and I knew enough about them to remind her that they were fiction. I tried to stress that gay relationships aren't cookie cutter, and don’t fit a stereotype. I said that no one was "the woman." I realized she didn't get it when she asked me to define stereotype, and that was when I gave up.
The clueless and sincere nice woman didn't get it, so she stared at the couple's shoes all night. She was waiting for the woman in the relationship to reveal herself. It was as if she believed that the "female" guy in the relationship was going to click his heels together 3 times, and a pair of Manolo's would magically appear on her feet.
Twelve states officially recognize our non-traditional relationships and marriages, and there’s no question that our nation is marching toward full marriage equality, and I don’t feel ambivalent about gay marriage. In fact, I’ve evolved and feel quite strongly that it’s a moral imperative for every state to recognize gay marriages.
Gay marriage is about love, as well as the over 1,100 rights afforded to straight married couples. Marriage is sanctioned by each state because of the laws inherent in their state Constitution. Marriage is not defined by scripture, or religion, or even Congress, or by me.
There are lots of straight people who still wonder who the man is in a gay relationship, and who the woman is, and there’s not too much that we can do about that --- except to be patient when we’re asked the ignorant question, and honest when we proffer an answer.
Since the Supreme Court will be announcing their historic decision in both cases this week, it’s important to remember that if they rule against us, at the very least...things will remain the same as they are today.
If they rule in our favor, it will be a different and more welcoming world that we wake up to the next day, and there will be dancing in the streets and the sheets, with hopeful beats, in every city and town across the country.
Whether we win or lose, I know that more people will be emboldened to speak up and live their lives authentically and out loud, and that’s a damn good thing.
Live out loud and very very proud is the way it ought to be.
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