When I saw the news, first on facebook and next in the New York Times, I started crying. Maybe I’m a little tired or overly enthralled from just having heard Natalie’s jazz vocal ensemble and Kelley Hunt sing, or maybe I sense what many of us do. When a U.S. President says, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” we’ve reached the tipping point on an issue that has caused so much pain, division and heartbreak.
I think of my gay, lesbian and trans friends, and what anguish their love and beings has endured because of laws, attitudes, and fights over why they or their relationships are wrong, evil, warped. More specifically, I think of Denise and Courtney. They’re the hardest working people I know: raising a family, running a small farm and associated small business, showing up before dawn at the farmer’s market on Saturday or burning the night oil studying for nursing classes. When Denise had thyroid cancer, Courtney faced some nurses and other hospital staff who denied her access to Denise. When they asked me to conduct their wedding ceremony and I told them I wasn’t exactly ordained in any way, they replied, “Like it matters?” It should matter, and this couple — just having celebrated their 11th “wedding” anniversary — should be able to celebrate their 11th wedding anniversary.
I think of what other friends have been through — the shame and blame a male friend endured because he grew up liking boys; the fear a young trans woman-to-man lives in at his rather redneck college; the general heartbreak so many endure at having to hide or force a change to or deny their essential nature. I think of the toll internalized oppression as well as all manner of discrimination coming from the outside have taken on many gay, lesbian, bi, questioning, queer, and other non-hetrosexual kids, teens, adults and elders.
Coming on the heels of North Carolina adding its state’s name to those standing against letting consenting adults love who they love, the president’s statement signals that even someone running for our highest office will affirm gay marriage, even in a highly-politicized and polarized political atmosphere. Some will say and are already saying Obama’s words are politically motivated, while others debate how much ground he may be losing in battleground states. But from where I sit, his words are just the beginning of a larger evolution this country is going through despite some of our kicking and screaming along the way. Most polls point to at least half of Americans supporting gay marriage, and many — even Michael Bloomberg of New York — also see the president’s statement as a watershed moment (as told to the New York Times): “No American president has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not ultimately been adopted by the American people, and I have no doubt that this will be no exception.”
As for those who believe same-sex marriage is the downfall of our country or an insult to their deepest-held beliefs, I say, “Sorry, not all of our laws and conventions fit all of any of our deepest-held beliefs,” and also, “It’s okay to believe what you believe, but don’t point your words and deeds toward harming others.” I also suggest they take a gay man or lesbian to lunch sometime and just get to know someone who’s probably more like them than they imagine. Just like the laws putting men and women in jail decades ago for interracial marriage, laws denying people ready to make a commitment the same privileges and rights are unjust. Let’s tip with the tipping point toward greater tolerance. Let’s stand on the side of the love, which is, ultimately, the only side where we belong.