Freedom to Marry Day is February 12th and Valentines Day is February 14th. I am sure that the connection is not lost on most of you – Both days are about love. I tend to be a bit of a romantic, and that is especially obvious to me when I see couples in love that are denied the right to marry each other because they are the same gender. When I hear stories about how not having the rights conferred by a marriage certificate affects their families in ways such as their ability to be at the bedside of their dying loved one, it is heart wrenching.
Much has been written and debated about why marriage matters. In fact there is a book by that same title, Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People’s Right to Marry, written by Evan Wolfson. The book as a lot of good information, however, in my mind, it still comes down to love.
One argument against marriage equality is that marriage was defined centuries ago and has not changed. If you look at the history, though, you will see that it has changed over the years. Marriage was originally more of a business deal, involving parents, property, local politics and social stature. It has evolved into something that is about two people being in love and wanting to share their lives, and have their families legally recognized. All that gay and lesbian couples want is to be included in that.
One of the confusing aspects of marriage in the US is that we commingle the religious and legal aspects so much that people here do not always understand that there are really two separate things going on. The real importance of marriage equality is the legal aspects. Those are the rights and responsibilities the come with legal certificate you get when you are married. Lesbian and gay couples have been able to have a religious ceremony in many churches for years; it is the legal benefits that they are not allowed in most of the United States.
As many in other states know, having marriage equality can be a transitory condition. In Iowa recently the state House of Representatives debated amending their constitution to eliminate the current marriage equality there. One young man’s testimony, a 19-year-old engineering student named Zach Wahls, standing up for his two moms and his family, stood out. You can see his courageous presentation to the House of Representatives in Iowa at this link to the video that went ‘viral’ a couple of weeks ago:
In Washington State we have domestic partnerships that come with the state level legal benefits that marriage does, but those are not transferable to other states in most cases. It is difficult these days to know who has what rights where. There are domestic partnerships, civil unions, full marriage, and states that recognize some from other states and some states that do not. My hope is that some day soon there will more unity among the United States in the legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples. We need to let love win out.