This is an exciting day for our community. Marriage Equality is a reality in California. It's a day for celebration and reflection.
Here on Bilerico, there has been much discussion about the importance of "marriage" and the fight for equality. Our own Mattilda wrote a thought-provoking piece called "What I hate most about Gay Marriage." It spoke about the assimilationist, heteronormative, and patriarchal nature of marriage, as well as the frustration over how marriage seems to be the "big goal" for many activists. The discussion in the comment thread was interesting and at times heated, ranging from marriage supporters to marriage haters.
I understand the debate about the importance of marriage in our community. I do think, however, that like much debate it dissolves into broad overstatements and assumptions about those you don't agree with. That's why I wanted to talk about my personal decision to get married to my partner.
It is a very personal and individual choice that I am extremely excited about. My partner and I have been together for 6 years. We have our civil union from Vermont and have shared a commitment ceremony with our families. In fact, our family jokingly refers to our Vermont civil union as a "covenant marriage" because if we would have to live in Vermont for one year to dissolve it.
Since we live in Florida, getting married in California won't have a direct, legal impact on our lives. We will return home to our state as the same strangers in the eyes of the law that we are now. So why do it?
Because it means something to us.
On some level, it has a symbolic meaning to the two of us. Do we need it to "legitimize" our relationship? Hell no. Are we incomplete without the tag "married"? Nope. Will this make our love more real or more respected by those that hate gay people? No. But on some very personal level, we like the idea of getting married, something we both thought we would never be able to do in our lifetimes.
I have no doubt that marriage isn't right for everyone. Couples should have the freedom to choose how they define their relationship. I now have the freedom to make that choice for myself and have chosen marriage.
Now, does that mean I am assimilating into some heteronormative construct? I personally don't think so. I'm not going to be become June Cleaver and be subordinate to my husband because we have a marriage certificate. I actually think that we are smashing that patriarchal construct by marrying. We have no pre-assigned, "expected" gender roles. The roles in our relationship are defined by what is needed, not by what is expected. We are equals in every way and make sure that everyone knows and respects that. Trust me when I say there will be no "do you promise to obey your husband" in our marriage vows.
Even our families have opened their minds about roles in marriage by seeing our relationship. When my sister got married, she referred to her relationship as "like Waymon and Anthony's- completely equal to one another." My partner's 89-year-old grandmother is even starting to understand in her own way the different dynamic that same-sex relationships bring to the table. She once pulled me aside and told me "I think you're better than a wife." For someone from her generation, that's a big statement to me. We have the opportunity as a community to break age old societal shackles associated with marriage.
I do think that marriage shouldn't be the "be all, end all" goal of our movement. We have huge issues facing us- passing a fully-inclusive ENDA, repealing DADT, health care, making sure all families are protected and recognized whether married or not, and many others. Yet I do think that having the option to marry and changing the view of what marriage can be is an important symbolic step for our entire movement. Anthony and I won't change by having a piece a paper, but we can make a change in what that piece of paper means to everyone.