Same Sex Couples
Imagine falling in love with the most wonderful person you've ever met. Imagine feeling the intense desire to propose marriage to them, to run down to City Hall and get a license, to get married at sunset on a white sand beach.
Now imagine knowing that you aren't allowed to get married. Imagine living with the knowledge that everyone else in the world is allowed to marry anyone they choose, that even bigamists who marry for fraudulent purposes seem to have no trouble getting licenses, but that you are exiled forever from the value of marriage.
This is a reality for millions of same sex couples.
When I first began doing research for this site 10 years ago, I quite often came across web sites about same sex marriage issues and newspaper features on same sex couples participating in commitment ceremonies. I admit that at first I was ambivalent about the issue, thinking that it was, perhaps, yet another attempt by a fringe group to redefine the institution of marriage to suit their particular circumstances, similar to the advocates of common law marriage.
But then I realized something. Same sex couples aren't trying to redefine marriage at all. They love it just the way it is. They simply want to be included in it, and allowed to share in the joy of it along with their heterosexual counterparts.
How sad it is that an entire group of people are legally barred from enjoying the happiness of marriage because of religious conservatism or societal discomfort with the manner in which they express their love for each other. How disheartening to realize that in the face of various groups advocating a move away from marriage, groups like gays and lesbians that actively pursue it are the ones who receive society's scorn. Ultra conservative radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger is as famous for her stringent advocacy of marriage as she is for her outright attacks on gays and lesbians, and does not seem to see the contradiction in her own philosophy. If she values marriage, why doesn't she respect people who value it as well?
Maybe that's the key right there. Maybe she'd have to respect them more if they embraced the same values heterosexuals did. Maybe it would be harder to condemn someone who wants to marry and raise a family just the way she did.
Regardless, the issue of marriage for same sex couples remains one of equal rights. Gay couples who wish to marry should have the same rights as heterosexual couples, the same recourse to divorce, the same options for adopting children. Scandinavian and European countries have recently made advancements in furthering gay marriage rights, although as of yet I don't believe there is a jurisdiction on earth that allows complete, unfettered legal marriage between homosexual couples with no provisions or restrictions of any kind.*
Opinions about homosexuality are irrelevant to this issue, despite what church officials and opponents of same sex marriage would claim. What kind of sex two people have is no one's business, and should certainly never be a factor in whether they are legally allowed to marry or not. Whether or not a couple can have children is also a non-issue when it comes to marriage. We simply should not continue to discriminate against people who wish to marry because some of us object to the sex of the person they've chosen.
I don't presume to know much about same sex relationships. But the principles which apply to heterosexual marriages, the principles of love based on values, of joyous sexuality, of lifelong friendship and a sense of family, apply just as readily to same sex marriages.
*Addendum - 10 years after writing this piece, same-sex marriage has been legalized in several countries around the world, and several US states. There are still ongoing legal battles in states like California, however.