I got married in 2011, after four years of dating. It took us that amount of time to figure out if we wanted to marry one another, to deal with the challenges most couples face: being introduced to the family we’d marry into, testing out if we could in fact live together before tying the knot or jumping the broom, reflecting on how we handled arguments when they arose, and how we made it through difficult times.
I feel lucky because we knew fairly early on in our relationship that we had the same values and wanted to be committed to one another — two of the main ingredients to creating something meaningful, something lasting. When the challenges came, as they surely would, we had each other’s backs and would ride out the wave together. And we were committed to doing so.
In 2011, we also had something else: civil unions. As two women, we would have to jump through hoops to have the legal right to be one another’s proxy should one of us need to be resuscitated in the hospital. We didn’t have the legal right to automatically be on the birth certificate of the child we brought into this world — many couples today, depending on the state they live in, must still go through a lengthy process to adopt their own kids, known as Second Parent Adoption.
We were held back by the legalities of a country and court system more content with keeping us apart than allowing us to be united under the law. That is, until June 26, 2015 when our same-sex union became a legal one.
But now in 2020, five years after same-sex marriage became legal, our very souls were shaken by the statements put out by Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, a call to overturn the very law that gave my family the opportunity to be equal under the law. What scares them so about the marriage I have? Why choose this month to stir a pot that doesn’t need to be stirred?
The conservative base that I believe Justice Alito and Justice Thomas want to rile up have no place in my marriage — they didn’t in 2011 or 2015, and most definitely do not today in 2020. Do they pay my bills? Do they know who I am? No. What they think is that our marriage is less, unequal, undeserving. What I want them to know is that they are wrong. That their timing could not be worse. That they are trying to deflect from the real issues — that we are in the fight of our lives for the soul of our nation. RBG’s death doesn’t mean they can change laws to appease their conservative base. And the Bible, my friend, has nothing to do with who I am as a gay woman, nor does it determine who I get to marry — and similarly, to the religious folks who believe that my marriage isn’t blessed by God, you too are wrong.
In 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were almost one million same-sex couples living in the United States. Of those, more than half were households led by two women, and of that one million, 58% were married couples like mine. What do these numbers tell us about the America we live in? It tells us that we are just like every other married couple across America. We are dealing with the same issues, the same marital growing pains that all married couples face, no matter who you share your bed with. But what some couples get (like the ones mentioned in Justice Clarence Thomas’s statement this week — the ones shielding their bigotry with the Bible) is the right to be married without the added fear of having that right taken away from them, as a man and woman, bride and groom, in holy matrimony.
In his 2015 support of same-sex marriage, Justice Kennedy wrote, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were.” As a country, today, living in the Trump era, we have bigger fish to fry than dealing with the Justices who care more about who I sleep next to at night or who I share my tax return with than about what our President is doing in the White House.
So as we are home teaching our kids about the history of our nation, about adding and subtracting, about how to live with purpose and empathy, let’s also teach them that love matters — no matter who you love. “Their hope,” Kennedy wrote, “is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Let’s teach our children to stand up for who they are and who they love, regardless of the gender. And above all else, let’s teach them to fight for what they believe in. As we head into this election, my wife and I will show up to the polls to protect the right to have the family we have worked so hard to establish.