Yesterday I got some news that gave me great pause. A friend of mine named Steph Bader, told me that this past week, after 36.5 years with her partner, she got married. My first thought was, "why'd you wait so long?" My second was, "after that many years, why now?" These are, of course, the typical responses from someone who's straight and who has the right to decide when and more importantly if I will ever get married.
I immediately thought of my own marriage. When Paul and I got married, we'd decided to wait a few years. Having both just come out of not such great relationships, we wanted to make sure we were sure. Three and a half years later we married and it was the best decision we made—both to wait and to marry. I feel fortunate that we both gave ourselves the luxury of time. I know it strengthened our relationship and it laid a great foundation for what has been a wonderful marriage.
I stifled the urge to ask those two ignorant questions and instead I responded, "Wow! 36 years? That's longer than many marriages last." I followed up with best wishes or something similar. And of course I am right. I then looked at her Facebook timeline to see what the buzz was about. There it was, the announcement that explained it all. She had married her longtime love, Cathy Hemler, after 36.5 years of being together! Photos of their wedding, discussions about the important milestone and tons of congrats and well wishes filled Steph's Facebook timeline.
Revelations: Book One
One might assume that I knew she was gay, but no, I hadn't known until I saw her Facebook timeline. Of course I ask myself why I hadn't known this rather important fact about her, someone I call a friend. Because I don't care, I suppose is the answer. It made no difference to me prior to her sharing the happy news that she got married and if anything it endears me to her more. Not because she's gay per se, but because each time I hear stories like this, they remind me of the painful struggles my parents and other interracial couples went through prior to each state and eventually the Supreme Court's decision to make it legal for two people of different races to marry. I'd be a hypocrite if I saw their union any other way.
It's so easy for me to see why it's not up to society and moreover the government to decide who can and cannot legally wed. I have heard all the objections and I can't support any of them, mainly because nobody has the right to stand in the way another human being's right to happiness.
Revelations: Book Two
I imagine what it must be like for someone to grow up listening to his or her parents talk about their wedding; the trip they took afterward, the loved ones who came to support them and the subsequent life they built, which may or may not have resulted in the birth of a child or two or more. I then think of the pain and sorrow as one is then told, "I'm sorry. That lifetime of happiness? That till death do you part thing? That feeling you have when you have taken your relationship to the next level and committed yourselves to each other in front of people you love, whose eyes are filled with tears, and if you choose, your god, who despite what others tell you, loves you no matter whom you fall in love with? Sorry honey, because you have no more control over whom you fell in love with than your parents did, and the fact that you fell in love with someone who's the same sex as you, you don't have a right to that same happiness I had and took for granted."
Okay, so this is very abstract, isn't it? After all, if you have lived a sheltered existence and never bothered to see into the hearts of people who are different from yourself, but see from a distance and feel it's your place to judge them based on your upbringing and the belief that somehow their love is less important or not worthy of something you take for granted, you can choose to have it remain abstract.
But hang on for a second. It's not.
This past week, two people did what straight people do every day of the week and don't bat an eyelash doing it. Because the state they live is stuck in the dark ages, they had to go to another state to get married. Why not wait until it's legal in their state? Surely I can hear the arguments now. How much longer should they have had to wait to get married? How long should they have had to be a couple before others recognized them as such?
Straight people fall into coupledome sometimes after one roll in the hay. Some even get married after that roll in the hay and then it becomes the punchline of joke. Britney Spears' first marriage lasted 36 hours. Kim Kardashian's second lasted 27 days and in a month she's going back to court to fight for her right to end it. Hey there's always divorce if it doesn't work out or annulment if one prefers to pretend it didn't exist.
To adapt a phrase often used by people of color, this is straight privilege.
Revelations: Book Three
But let's wrap our heads around this: 36.5 years Steph and Cathy have been in love with one another. That's almost exactly 10 years fewer than I have been alive on this earth. In that time they could have said they'd been married for some 30 odd years and they'd have beaten out half of Hollywood marriages and the marriages of many people you and I both know.
I have been mulling this over the last 18 or so hours and if I live long enough to be married to Paul for 36.5 years, I know that I will think the same thing then as I do right now. This is one of the hugest travesties of humankind I can name. And no, I am not being dramatic. One must assume that these two people have been alive for probably 56 or more years. When most people are thinking about retirement, grandchildren and living out the "death till we part" thing together, for 36.5 years these two people had to put so many things on hold while they waited for society and the law to catch up to them. Who the hell has the right to prevent two people from doing what I took for granted, for thirty-six and a half years, simply because they were pronounced wife and wife not husband and wife?
Hearing this news has me both extraordinarily sad and elated at the same time. Sad that human beings sometimes suck and elated because they were able to FINALLY do what nobody has the right to tell them they couldn't do, and in spite of how much humans can suck royally!
Congratulations to you both! I want you to know that you will be my heroes for many years to come.
Edited to add on April 2, 2016:
Two things happened since I wrote this blog on April 6, 2013.
The Supreme Court of the United States voted yes to marriage equality on Friday, June 26, 2015. What does this mean? It means that everyone in the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam may get married—regardless of racial differences or gender similarities.
The other? Steph and Cathy celebrated three years of marriage today. Despite assurances that the world would come to an end if gay people were allowed to get married, nothing happened. Life went on for everyone ... including for those who oppose marriage quality.