What it Means

What it Means June 26, 2013

Today the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and declared that the proponents of California’s Prop 8 had no standing to argue against Judge Walker’s ruling that Prop 8 was unconstitutional. What these rulings mean in the real world seems pretty straightforward. Same-sex couples can finally resume getting married in California. Same-sex couples who are legally married in states that allow their unions will be entitled to the full federal benefits of marriage. For me, as someone who was married in California during the brief period when it was legal before Prop 8, it means that I won’t have to keep filing my state taxes as a married person and my federal taxes as someone who is single. It means that if I die before my wife that she will be entitled to my Social Security benefits, and that our house will belong to her. The benefits are significant, and tangible.

But the non-tangible benefits mean so much more. The Supreme Court’s rulings mean that we are, like the Velveteen Rabbit, finally Real. At long last the law of the land recognizes what we’ve known all along: that two people who fall in love and commit to one another for life, who have a child and a house and dogs and cats together, who argue and make up and talk about their day and eat dinner and check homework and sleep in the same bed are married. Just plain married. Not domestic-partnershipped or gay-married, but married. Real. Entitled to refer to one another as “my wife,” and have people understand what that means.

I know that a judicial ruling won’t change the hearts of all the people who feel that our relationship is counter to God’s will, or simply icky. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. But everyone is not entitled to have their opinion enshrined as law, and the law has finally stood up and said that equal rights are equal rights, and that your personal theology and comfort levels don’t get to trump that fact. If your church doesn’t want to perform weddings for two men or two women, fine. My church is happy to. Was happy to 15 years ago when Kelsey and I stood up in front of our family and friends, our church community, and declared our life-long commitment and enduring love, and is happy to now. Only now, in some select states of the union, the minister can sign the wedding license knowing that it is Real, not a second-class document that somehow disappears if you cross the state line.

That matters. It matters that so many of my friends, gay and straight, liberal and conservative, religious and unchurched, have been hoping and praying for this day. It matters that in the course of my lifetime we have gone from the Stonewall riots to the highest court in the land declaring that “no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

I would like to wrap this joyful moment in a bow and declare, with Theodore Parker and Dr. King, that the “moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But I know it’s not that simple. I know that yesterday the same Supreme Court which today ruled to protect my personhood and dignity ruled against key portions of the Voting Rights Act. I know that the arc of the moral universe is less of an arc than a squiggle, bending this way and that, and only because people take the trouble to bend it. I know that the status of my marriage is a small thing compared to families torn apart by immigration laws, or the bizarre declaration of Citizens United that corporations are people and money is speech. I also know that my 18 years with the love of my life are a gift and a blessing regardless of what the courts have to say. But still, in spite of it all, there is the fact that we have arrived at this moment, somewhat the worse for wear, and with much of our fur worn off, to hear People Who Matter declare that we are, in fact, Real. It is a celebration of marriage, and I, for one, intend to have cake.

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