Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Fight for Marriage Equality in NY State

When my younger sister was a senior in High School, she had to do a project for her Government class on some sort of current event.  She chose the topic of gay marriage.  When asked by her teacher why she chose that topic she replied: "Because my brother is gay and I want to see him get married."  -- I'll always remember her telling me that for as long as I live.

My sister Kristy is six years younger than me and we went to the same local public High School.  When I was a senior, there was a big debate about two boys going to the prom together.  It was a big debate in our rather boring suburban High School.  In the end, each boy went with a girl to the prom.  The year Kristy graduated, I got a phone call from her one day with her on the other end of the line all excited.  "Guess what???  They voted a gay couple for the 'cutest couple' category in this year's yearbook!!!".  I couldn't believe how much had changed in just six short years.

Now, 11 years after I have graduated High School, we face another chance for positive change.  The New York State Senate will soon be voting on whether or not same sex couples can legally marry in this state.

For those who regularly read my blog, it will be of no surprise to you that I am still single.. moving ever closer to impending spinsterhood.  Despite my sister's desire to see me get married one day, my pessimistic sensibilities tend to get the better of me and convince me that's not "in the cards".  My chance to marry however, should be decided by whether or not I find a life partner, not whether or not I have the legal right to marry at all.

As children, we have a keen ability to latch onto certain people fairly easily.  Little kids will often taunt each other with the old rhyme: "Sarah and Joseph sitting in a tree... k-i-s-s-i-n-g.  First comes love.. then comes marriage.. then comes Sarah in the baby carriage.."  My personal favorite saying was usually used if you ever said you loved someone, like a best friend or a close relative: "If ya love him so much.. why don't ya marry him???" -- Even in the minds of little children, love and marriage go together.  "First comes love.. then comes marriage.."  But this is not the scenario for all of us.

Some people who are fortunate enough to find true love are forced to do without the legal recognition of that love and partnership and all the benefits it implies.  Inheritance, parental rights and hospital visitation eligibility are only a few. 

Gay and lesbian couples also lack the social benefits of a legally recognized marriage.  When two men or two women have a ceremony or wear weddings rings, they are "flaunting" their sexuality.  As long as they do it in the privacy of their own homes, people don't fuss.. but should they want to publicly celebrate their love and commitment to one another.. they have gone too far.  What kind of message does that convey?  Two men who love each other with their whole hearts and souls are "faulting" it if they want a public ceremony, but a man and a woman can have HUGE, elaborate weddings??  Hey -- I've seen "Say YES to the Dress" -- I know how much these shindigs cost!!  Talk about flaunting it! - And don't get me started on Anniversaries!

At a day and age when marriage seemed to be going the way of the dinosaurs, gays and lesbians have been serving as witnesses to the importance of marriage.. whether performed in a Church or by a Justice of the Peace.  That "little piece of paper" does make a difference for many people... and it should be available to ALL consenting adults. 

What I have found to be most frustrating when debating this topic with opponents of same-sex marriage is that it's a debate over feeling.  One of the hardest things to get another person to do is feel what you are feeling.  Heterosexual opponents of Gay marriage don't have the attraction and feelings we homosexuals do and therefor have a hard time understanding where we come from.  How do you prove feelings? How do you prove love?

I grew up admiring the close bond and intense love my maternal Grandparents had with and for each other.  Sure, they had their share of differences, but no matter what, that intense love and connection was always there.  I grew up wanting the kind of love they had for each other, and a similar life they had built together.... only no one told me way back then that I was to be excluded from sharing my life with someone in that way... through no fault of my own.  Different always equals bad, right?

Though I am easily angered by the politicians and Church officials who speak out so vehemently against same sex marriage (and yes.. I said Church officials!!), I can't help but feel sorry for them.  They don't realize that the very sanctity of marriage they are spending so much time and money  to "protect" is the same marriage we believe to be sacred too. 

I find that all I can do is pray.. pray to remove hatred from everyone's heart.. and pray that one day, those that spend so much time, money and effort to prevent people from getting married will one day invest that energy and those resources into promoting LOVE... which is what this topic is all about.