When I married my husband oh-so-many years ago, I inherited many new relatives—among them, the Guncles. The Guncles quickly became my favorite people; they were warm and genuine, quick with conversation, wonderful cooks, and great with children. They had both been teachers and business owners and were full of funny stories about classrooms and kids…and sprinkled in once or twice, a sobering anecdote about the discrimination they had lived with most of their lives. My kids have grown up with and adore the Guncles, never thinking that their relationship is any different from any others. In fact, after they quietly married a few years ago in Massachusetts, my youngest daughter only wondered if Uncle C. had worn a dress. The Guncles, both now in their early 70s, were finally able to marry after being together more than fifty years. Having spent their lives knowing they were not viewed as equals in this country, they already had medical and legal powers of attorney to grant them the ability to take care of each other the ways most married people take for granted. I’m not even sure they knew how much the choice to be married meant to them until it was there, in front of them. But, certainly it meant something much more than legal and tax implications, just as it does to any of us who choose to marry. It is incomprehensible that for the majority of our country, that choice still isn’t extended to lesbian or gay couples.
You’d think by now, we have this equality thing down. We’ve done it before; it’s like learning first grade math: 2 + 7 = 9, therefore, 7 + 2 also = 9, as does 2 + 4 + 3, 3 + 4 + 2, and so on. They all equal nine. We are black, yellow, red, male, female, transgender, Chinese, Ethiopian, Jew, Christian, Muslim, atheist, straight, bisexual, gay, we are all equal people. It’s not a difficult concept; we’ve been over the lesson many times, and yet still we march on with this ridiculous parade, waiting for those in denial to catch up to the indisputable facts. As we watch and read the news of the Supreme Court deliberating over Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (clearly discriminatory), how can we not lament our own stupidity? We are the nation who consistently purports ourselves to be defenders of the world. We swoop into countries blathering about our equal opportunity, our democracy and freedom, but we rarely defend our own. We hold ourselves up as a shining example of these things we are supposed to stand for, but we haven’t lived up to those ideals. Rather, we rip each other apart over guns and healthcare, and the right to rule our own bodies; we allow our children to go hungry, and to be molested and abused in closets, behind the curtains of liturgies and flowing robes. Even now, there are those among us more concerned about defiling the sanctified definition of a precious word (marriage) than our neighbor having equal rights. Marriage is not defined by race or gender, it is defined by an intimate relationship between two people, and their choice to make a life together. Just as families have evolved over time, so shall marriage. And as has happened in the past, regardless of the current laws or definitions, the discriminated people in this country have already begun their forward march. They’re not waiting to create the relationships and families of the future. For the latecomers, their children are explaining the obvious: “Our family is just like yours.” They know we must—we will—join them.
It is not an act of courage to stand up for marriage equality now; it is simply common sense. As much as I love our President, more than being proud of him for finally declaring his support last year, I felt: “What took you so long?” (Hillary Clinton, so it goes with you.) The courageous people began their fight back in the 1950s, yet here we still are today, trying convince the misguided holdouts that gay and lesbian people deserve the same rights as the straights. Our continued prejudices have caused our children so much despair that an alarming number of them have killed (or attempted to kill) themselves rather than be persecuted for their differences. That we continue to have to deliberate this issue is a detriment to us all, and the lack of support and immediate action is, once again, teaching the wrong lesson to our children. Why, after every battle for equality this country has been through, after all the acts of courage, violence and bloodshed throughout our history, is it still so difficult for us to see each other as equals?
If I could say anything to those Supreme Court justices going back and forth this week, it would be, “Can’t we just skip all this and get to the good part?” Can we just stop mucking around and go directly where we need to be—where we know we’re inevitably going? We’ve been through this before. This is not an issue of states’ rights; this is an issue of human rights. We don’t allow states to decide interracial or interfaith couples cannot marry, and we cannot allow states to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. Don’t drag this out one moment longer. We are past the point of needing to go through all these machinations to become the country of equal opportunity we claim to be.