My friend Naomi this morning asked a fantastic question:
Sexual orientation aside, if you’re married, why did you choose marriage? If you’re not married, would you choose marriage, why or why not? Would you choose another form of legal recognition?
Here is how my partner and I responded:
Me: We chose marriage (though not recognized as such via our government) because my beloved and I wanted to make a commitment before God and our community to love one another, and ask for the help of God and community to witness our love, see us through our hard times, and bless us. I would choose, if able, to be legally recognized. Though at this time, that is not my choice or privilege.
Sweetie: Rachel expressed my feelings as well so you can read “we” where she wrote “I.” I look forward to
the legal recognition of my marriage which I expect to come, but being blessed by God & community was first priority, and making our commitment public (and therefore be accountable) was close behind. Being married changes the/our conversation & outlook.
What did others say? “Legal protection. Social norms. Its easier to get by and be accepted if you are married. Legal benefits.” You know what that sounds like to me? Privilege. This conversation is not about morality, religion or God. This conversation is about privilege.
Karen and I met over 12 years ago, over burnt eggs and bad coffee one Sunday morning after a long night of friends, laughter and a few drinks. She and I were both in other relationships at the time. Many moves and a few jobs later I would see her again, this time in a most unexpected place—church.
In 2004 I was working for St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, a welcome place to be after being ushered out of another faith tradition. It was the ordination of a friend, an openly lesbian Episcopal priest, who would reconnect us. I was the Director of Membership, and Karen—a life long Catholic christian—after having just watched our friend be ordained, wondered what kind of church was this that allowed—even more, gladly welcomed—an openly gay woman to its priestly ranks. After the service, over oatmeal raisin cookies and red flavor punch, we talked about matters of faith and life, exchanged business cards and agreed to meet again over coffee.
Well, as the story would go coffee turned into drinks and there at the Chino Latino bar we acknowledged what we knew to be true, we had googly eyes for one another. Another dozen or so dates in and a few visits to church, and we knew; we were hopelessly in love.
Now I know that my story of falling in love is not unlike many: two people meet through some twist of fate or coincidence, fall in love, and decide to get married. The difference between Karen and I and every other opposite gender couple? Legal rights and privilege.
- Karen and I were married (though even at the time were not allowed to call it that) in our beloved Episcopal Church. We had to call it “A blessing of a holy union” which isn’t all together bad, but I wonder if my opposite gender couples would ever choose this title?
- We had no witnesses, because there was no marriage license to sign and return to the State of Minnesota.
- We have every intention of filling out health care directives, writing wills, and meeting with a lawyer (read: fantastically expensive) to make our love and marriage as protected as possible (read: still not bullet-proof as any of our family could contest and win in a court of law) so that in the case of any emergency I can be there at her side, and she at mine, to make important life and death decisions. Opposite gender couples, a built in benefit of marriage.
- I am on Karen’s insurance at her work, and because it is considered a domestic partnership not marriage we pay for this benefit after tax, not before like married people.
- In the same way, Karen works for a university, which receives of course, federal financial aid. Because of the federal laws (not the employers choice) they cannot offer me education benefits as her spouse, only to spouses and children of legally married people.
Trust me when I am telling you the list goes on. In more than 515 ways (and more than twice that federally) our marriage is inferior to that of my opposite gender counterparts.
I am not asking anyone to bless what Karen and I have. God has, and will continue to do that. What I am asking is for our marriage to not be constitutionally banned. I am asking that the state in which I live and love and have my being to not put my right to ever be married to Karen to a vote.
The proposed amendment protects absolutely no one. It does not create jobs or attract visitors and would be Minnesotans to our state. It does hurt, a lot, being vulnerable, unprotected. I can’t lie and say “please just leave us alone and let us live life as we have it now” because that is not what I want either. I wish it were enough.
It isn’t. I don’t have a gay agenda, I have a love agenda. I have a are-you-kidding-me-I-am-not-a-threat-to-your-marriage-agenda. I believe that by allowing Karen and I equal protection under the law, we can be more beneficial, more productive, more honest members of our community, our society and our world. May it be so.