A little over 20 years ago I called my parents, bubbling with the news that I’d just gotten engaged. My mother’s response was dismay. My father’s? “No, you’re not.”
That comment broke my heart. Here I was, happy and in love with a wonderful man – why couldn’t they be happy for me?
Of course, they had their reasons – my brother and sister had both recently broken off long engagements. The engagements had only taken place after equally long relationships. My boyfriend and I had only been going out for three months. How on earth could we possibly be ready to make a commitment to be married? We surely didn’t seem to be up to the task.
Marriage is valued in my family. It symbolizes commitment, love, honor, permanence, FAMILY. It’s nothing to be trifled with. I suppose, in their own way, my parents were trying to protect me from making the mistake of dishonoring that institution. I’m sure they were trying to protect me from getting hurt. The thing was that in trying to protect me from being hurt they were hurting me. They were telling me that I wasn’t old enough, smart enough, strong enough, committed enough to be married. They thought I was rushing into it. They didn’t want me to trifle with marriage, because it is such an important commitment.
Honestly, I don’t know exactly why they objected, because we’ve never really discussed it. What I have done is tease them about how wrong they were. My boyfriend – now my husband – and I are still together. We didn’t get married in a church – and by law – until the year after we got engaged. But we got married to each other just a few short weeks after our engagement; a move that I’m sure would’ve horrified my parents had they known. They would’ve disparaged it, so I didn’t tell them at the time. My husband and I made our commitment to each other and then jumped over his sword. To date, my mother still refers to my husband as her favorite son-in-law (never mind, Jeff – we love you too!).
To some, our first marriage ceremony might sound silly. But the commitment we made that day was as important as the one we made the following year for legal purposes. At least we had the opportunity to make it legal. So many people who are also in love, who are also committed to each other and their relationship, don’t have that opportunity. Why? They want to marry someone of the same gender instead of the opposite one. That’s the only difference.
Gay marriage opponents claim they want to “protect” marriage. Against what? Millions of heterosexual people have disrespected their marriage vows in so many ways. Because the Bible says so? The Bible says lots of other things the opponents cheerfully ignore. Why then is this part so important?
I’m sure those who oppose gay marriage think they are doing what’s necessary to ensure that the institution of marriage remains highly valued. But what they are doing is cheapening it. They’re putting a price on it – either you marry someone of the opposite gender or you’re not worth it. Love doesn’t have a price – it just is. Only those in the relationship can define that. Commitment is important, but who is to say whether that commitment is valuable enough to rate being “married”? My parents would’ve denied my marriage 20 years ago. 20 YEARS! Our commitment to each other was and is real, even though they and probably many others doubted it. So too is the commitment of so many same-sex couples to each other and their marriages. Why should they be denied the right to marry? Why should their hearts be broken by someone telling them that their love for each other isn’t important enough for them to be able to get married?
To marry someone is to promise to love, honor, and cherish them as long as you both shall live. To attach a caveat that says, in effect, that such a relationship is only possible between two people of opposite genders renders the entire institution worthless, without value. Love knows no boundaries – or does it? Until marriage is available to anyone, it does. Love is too important for that. I should know – 20 years ago today I married my Bestest. Love won for us. I hope others can win too.