I wrote this just after my friends Ann and Joan got married in 2008, during the brief window before California’s Proposition 8 was passed. In honor of enduring love, and of Proposition 8’s demise this week, I’m running it again. What has the Supreme Court’s historic rulings on marriage equality meant for you?
Like any couple getting married, Ann and Joan vowed to love, honor, and cherish each other until parted by death. They could pledge this with more certainty than the average newlyweds, having already lived through so many years of for better or for worse.
Ann vowed to try not to throw things away. Joan promised she would try to throw things away. That’s what comes from being forced to wait nearly two decades for marriage. You know one another’s foibles so well that what used to drive you crazy now deepens your love. You know it’s precisely your differences that bring balance. You know it’s the trying that counts.
The brides spoke in honor of their dead parents. When Ann first revealed she was gay, her mother responded, “It’s about time you figured it out.” Ann quipped that her father would have loved to give her away to Joan, if she were the type to let herself be given away to anyone.
Joan’s family was less embracing. Her mother died when Joan was 24, fearful that her daughter would suffer terribly from a hostile culture. Joan knew her mother would be delighted that her fears had not come true, and that her life was rich with love and happiness.
Guests were invited to place a rose in a silver vase and share what this wedding meant to them. There was an outpouring of hope and gratitude and joy. By the end, the vase was crammed with roses of every hue.
I grew up dreaming of bridal bouquets and my bridesmaids’ matching sashes. I didn’t know what blooms would be in season when I married, or whether my color scheme would be driven by the daffodils of spring or the chrysanthemums of fall. But as a straight woman, I knew I could count on having a season.
Now there is a season for everyone.
Opponents to same-sex marriage argue that gay people shouldn’t be granted special rights. But what is so special about wanting to be treated like everybody else? It’s not just gays who benefit—it’s all of us. My joy in realizing my childhood dreams is enhanced because Ann and Joan are no longer excluded from having such dreams.
I also cannot imagine how, as some claim, same-sex weddings threaten marriage between men and women. My feelings for my husband deepened as I listened to the readings about love, friendship, and commitment that Ann and Joan chose for their wedding. A marriage that draws its strength from discrimination is not a marriage at all.
Surely Ann and Joan don’t really need the state to affirm their love and commitment. At 60-something, they can buy all the bath towels and appliances and flowers they want. They can even buy a lawyer’s time to secure most of the rights that straight couples take for granted. But without the state’s sanction, something is missing.
Now we all have what money can’t buy: Inclusion and equality.
At the end of the ceremony, Joan and Ann grinned through their tears while we all cheered and wept like crazy.
“This is something we never dreamed would happen,” Joan said. “We never imagined that we could get dishtowels and kitchen gadgets, like everybody else,”
At last they can.
And at last we can give them.