Friday, June 26, 2015

The fight for marriage-equality is not one that I will have to pass down to my son. Today is a happy day.

I was living in Utah in November of 2004 when, as a 22 year old, I experienced for the first time how hurtful bigotry and fear can be when enshrined into law.

On November 2, 2004, a majority of Utahns voted in favor of Amendment 3, an amendment that defined marriage as a union exclusively between one man and one woman. It was a hard day.

In a state where a large number of its residents have ancestors who were persecuted, terrorized, and even killed for their non-traditional beliefs about marriage, I was shocked at how quickly they’d forgotten... at how empty their empathy banks had grown because of fear and disgust for their LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

Many of them didn’t even realize that what they’d done was hurtful. “It’s just a difference of opinion.” “We live in a democracy, so majority rules.” “It’s just not something I believe in, no offense.”

But it was offensive.

I’d recently come to terms with the realization that my affinity for some of my female friends was more than just admiration—it was a crush. I was bisexual. Which is why it was so hurtful when many of my friends (and even my family members) had just voted in favor of an amendment that would put into law that half of who I am as a person was “less than” and undeserving of equal rights. What if the person I fell in love with happened to be female? What would I do then?

I moved to North Carolina and my best friend of 10 years at the time, Desiree, soon followed. I met and fell in love with a man the very next year… the same year that Desiree came out as a lesbian. In 2006, I got married and started a family. That same year, Desiree met the love of her life and they moved in together.

Six years later, in 2012, we would again witness the phenomenon of our community, many of them our friends and family, voting in favor of hate and bigotry in the form of an amendment. This time it’s number was One. Many of my acquaintances didn’t quite understand why I cared so much about an amendment to our constitution that declared that only half of who I am was ‘acceptable’.

“You’re married to a man, why do you care?”

I’m a cis-gendered female and was married to a straight, cis-gendered male. My being a member of the LGBTQ community wasn’t apparent to most, but I never understood why it was a hard concept to understand. It was a simple question:

Do we really want to live in a society where people don’t care about the law unless it affects them?

Perhaps it was naive, but in 2012, I was hopeful that we’d be able to defeat Amendment One. I thought surely by now enough people had heard the arguments in favor and against enshrining bigotry into a state’s constitution and would do the right thing regardless of their personal beliefs. So I fought hard to get the word out. My son and I helped organize a “Love Wins” dance with other moms and their kids in our community to raise money and awareness about how such an amendment would affect families headed by same-sex couples. And I had tough conversations with my friends and family about why they should care, even if it doesn’t affect them.

But once again, fear, disgust, and religious zealotry won out.

I heard it all over again: “Majority rules.” “The people have spoken.” “It’s nothing personal.”

But it was sooo personal.

And it was infuriating. In moments of despair, I was sure that the fight for marriage equality would be one that my son and his friends would have to take up. But as advocates, we continued on.

Last Fall, when Amendment One was overturned by the courts, I cried tears of joy (for pretty much the entire night) as I met Desiree and her awesome partner of 8 years, Lindsay, at the Wake County courthouse to be a witness for their marriage. They’d waited long enough.

Today, as I’m watching the news unfold from the Supreme Court’s decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, the fears I’ve had are being put to rest. I’m overcome with joyful emotions. Equal marriage rights are no longer “a difference of opinion” or left to the whim of “majority rules”. I know there’s a long way to go in terms of employment protections and other non-discrimination measures, but I’m going to allow myself a brief moment to breathe a sigh of relief and shed a tear of joy (ok, more than just one) for the progress we’ve made.

The fight for marriage-equality is not one that I will have to pass down to my son. Today is a happy day.

As President Barack Obama said in his comments today on the Supreme Court ruling:

“...sometimes there are days like this—when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

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