“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday.” – The Princess Bride
I’ve never thought much about marriage. Though we’re taught as little girls to look forward to our weddings, to dream of white dresses and towering cakes—it just never did much for me.
A big part of it was that I didn’t have a very good example of what a marriage should/could be. My parents were ill suited for each other; there wasn’t much love (that I could see) and there was a lot of fighting. But deeper than that, there was an air of unhappiness, a malaise that hung just below the surface. I could tell they weren’t satisfied by their partnership—though I was young, I was perceptive.
I was actually relieved when they divorced. As a 10 year-old, I was a bit sad to see my dad move out, but I wasn’t as sad as I thought I’d be. I remember forcing myself to cry the day he left, trying to make myself believe it was a devastating blow the way they always portrayed it. Kids were supposed to be upset when their parents split, right? But the act didn’t last long because the bottom line was I knew it was for the best. Once I saw how easy-going my parents became after the divorce, it was solidified: their divorce was a good thing.
Neither of my parents got remarried. My mom never even dated. She would tell me: “I like being on my own. Dealing with another person, cleaning up after them—I don’t need that.”
Even my dad would say: “I think I’m not the marrying kind.” And after two failed marriages, I give him a lot of credit for recognizing that fact, rather than continuing down the path of weddings followed by divorces.
So in my mind marriage became something troublesome—why dream of something that wasn’t that great? I had bigger fish to fry, more glamorous aspirations, like being a famous novelist and directing movies. Who needed to get married for that? If anything, I felt it would just hold me back.
And so it went for a large portion of my life, until I became active in the LGBTQ community. Suddenly marriage represented something very different for me. No longer was this an outdated, patriarchal tradition steeped in power dynamics and the exchange of property. Now this was a civil rights issue.
Though I was personally still disinterested in a union of this kind, I couldn’t understand why two people who loved each other were not allowed to legally tie the knot. The more I delved into it, the more I was outraged—heterosexual couples, fully covered by the law, abused the “sanctity” of marriage left and right.
Serial divorces, drunken Las Vegas weddings that lasted 48 hours, there was even a reality show for a while called ‘Engaged and Underage’ about couples under 21 who were planning to get married (despite their families warnings against it). 19 year-old kids experiencing puppy love for the first time were allowed to just walk in off the street and get a marriage license, while committed, loving adults—some who had already been together for decades—weren’t allowed the same right. They were denied hospital visitation rights, had no claim on their partner’s estate in the event of death. They were denied the ability to use each other’s health insurance and benefits, and had no legal claim on each other’s children.
This was a real problem and something I quickly began to rally behind. Though I was still a “non-believer”, the fact that such a large portion of society was being denied their rights felt wrong. It is wrong. Which is why this recent same-sex marriage ruling is such a historic event and will go down with the likes of the passing of the 19th and 14th Amendments.
Finally all couples and families will have the law protecting them from the injustices they previously experienced. Now that gay marriage is legal across the states, it will decrease the taboo of homosexuality even more. Younger generations will learn that there is nothing different or contemptible about people who identify as LGBTQ and then hopefully as they grow and become the new leaders, there will be even less hate and discrimination. It seems idealistic, but I’m opting for optimism.
Though we don’t know what the future holds, we do know that this is a big win for the LGBTQ community and a huge step forward for society as a whole. Certainly there will be backlash, and really, this is just one battle won in a long fight towards equality. There are many injustices that still need to be addressed and ultimately changed.
For today though, I’m happy. Am I now a marriage enthusiast? Definitely not. But a little bit of my hope in society has been restored. Just a bit.