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Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Personal, Profound, Magnificent

June 26, 2015

I headed to the entry way of our home upon hearing the news this morning about the ruling from the Supreme Court about my right to marry the person I love. Days ago my partner James, who is the neighborhood vexillologist, pulled from his collection the colorful gay pride flag and had it neatly folded on a trunk, ready for the day the ruling would come down. I picked it up and walked briskly outside knowing that this ruling, will without a doubt, be the most profound action the court will ever have on my life.

As I brought down one flag and worked the halyard to lift the pride flag to the top of the pole I glanced at my fingers. Because of five justices who understand the U.S. Constitution is a living document the ring of love and affection that is now worn on my right hand will, after a marriage ceremony, be worn with legal and social significance on the ring finger of my left hand.

In what can only be described as momentous the court ruled that my partner and I have legal equality, fairness, and dignity for our relationship. For many years I have stressed there was only one way for gay couples to get all the rights, benefits, and social recognition in a relationship and that is through the bonds of marriage. I have stressed–with countless others– over and over gay marriage is indeed a constitutional right.

I have always likened the lack of marriage rights for gay couples to small children at holidays being sent to eat at a separate, smaller table. Some thought civil unions or some other accommodation would be enough to quiet us, but we knew there was no substitute for a real marriage.  Any lawyer, no matter where they finished in their class, could rattle off the countless legal reasons marriage was a necessity for gay couples.

When I was a teenager in the late 1970’s, growing up in conservative rural Wisconsin there was no way for me to seriously consider that same-sex marriages would ever be ruled legal in this nation. There were so many hurdles to cross just to not get bullied or beaten up for being gay in high school that I did not ponder much else.  But as a young adult those thoughts were on my mind since I came from a home with parents in love with each other.  Mom and Dad were married just three months shy of 60 years.  I grew up in a home where anniversaries and Valentines days every year  informed my experience.  But after I left home, came out to my friends,  and started living authentically it became clear that marriage for me would be impossible because of the state of the politics surrounding it.

Gay people were expected to stand up in weddings for friends, send gifts when wedding announcements were received, and heartily congratulate others for years of togetherness. But at the end of the day there was no national legal recognition that gay people had the same loving relationships and should be treated equally.  While social progress was made in some states, and in the general population it also needs mentioning that just 20 years ago it was still legal in some states for private consensual sexual activity to be worthy of an arrest.  There was no jurisdiction in the nation that recognized same-sex marriage.

There is no way to sum up how it felt over the years to have my equality and dignity undermined by legal and government forces, always hearing that my relationship was not quite the same as everyone else’s. In 2006 it was a tremendous effrontery to know that too many of my fellow Wisconsin citizens thought so harshly about gay people they would cast a vote to deny them equal marriage rights.  I have never been more angry about the outcome of an election.  Only gay men and women know how it stung to hear politicians use same-sex marriage as a partisan tool, all the time knowing that many of our relationships have lasted far longer than the ‘starter-marriages’ of many who worked against gay marriage rights.

So what happened today with this ruling was personal.  It was profound.  It was simply magnificent.  It was what many a young person in some small town who is gay and not sure about life needs to hear coming from the Supreme Court.  I know that because I came from that background and know how it feels to be gay, isolated, and in need of the knowledge that things really can get better.

As I looked at up our pride flag flapping in the wind I thought of what writer Andrew Sullivan had penned many years ago about this long simmering social issue. He wrote “Marriage is more than a private contract; it is the highest public recognition of our integrity.”

Over the years I have had many conversations with well-intentioned people who felt the issue was gaining too much speed and we would be hurt by the rush to win so much so soon. But I always countered from my reading of history I knew social movements and demands for advancement do not come at a time convenient for everyone.  I knew from reading history that in the end our nation has always been enriched by our strides towards a more equitable society.

I know that will be case as it now relates to gay married couples, too.

5 Comments
  1. tom permalink
    June 27, 2015 3:58 PM

    This is a great ruling for people and for the country. Congratulations! I hope you’re still out partying! Best of luck!

  2. June 27, 2015 10:08 AM

    Take your issues up with WMC and other Republican organizations when it comes to the need for workers and immigration. They differ with you on the need—and I do too. There is transformation in the work force that has been underway for some time and that will continue. I think it important to know the facts that make the case. One of the pieces of data that came out last week was immigrants started 28% of all new businesses in 2011. The fact that really surprised me was that immigrants represent 18% of small business owners in the country but are only roughly 13% the overall population. And of course on average they pay more in taxes then they get in benefits, so it is plus for the economy in that respect, too. The story from Ottumwa, Iowa a came back into news too–that being home to some 30,000 people who saw their taxable property value double in the last 10 years. There was an effort to bring in new immigrants who then opened up shops to replace shuttered storefronts and the place is moving forward. These are the type of things Republican business people want to see proceed forward, and I agree with them on that point regarding immigration and the continued need for it. The demographics for new births in this nation underscore my point–as I noted in my first comment.

  3. June 27, 2015 8:34 AM

    I have zero problem with immigration i have 100% issue with illegal immigration they are two separate issues. To say we don’t have enough workers is comical the problem is we don;t have enough Americans who are willing to do whatever it takes. We have become a society that thinks working in a factory is belittling. We have become a society who thinks unless you have a degree you are of little worth. We have become a society who refuses to say I will do what it takes to take care of my family, we have become a society of entitlement and lazy people, sit back and EXPECT the government to take care of us. Obama care has punished the middle class workers we have seen health care cost rise, we have seen insurance companies profits rise and we are slowly losing our rights to the best medical care in the world because once again government who cant do the simplest things like deliver mail or take care of our veterans THINK they know better when it comes to my health. It will be an uphill battle but once we get one of the most incompetent men who ever resided in the White House finally out and hopefully by the grace of God changes can be made to start and restore some sanity to this country.

  4. June 26, 2015 1:46 PM

    Thank you for agreeing with the matter of equality that this court ruling allows for. I appreciate that sentiment.

    You might have noticed that in the recent past it was not politicians, but judges who have worked on and ruled on same-sex marriage. So politicians have not been burdened with this issue. It might also be noted that most people, including politicians should be able to walk and chew gun at the same time.

    You should also be aware the U.S. Senate did work on immigration and sent a comprehensive package to the House—the senate vote was bi-partisan.

    Next you should be aware that the worker shortage in the U.S.—including Wisconsin—necessitates more immigration to meet the needs of business. This comes as no surprise since the growth in kindergarten no longer keeps pace with high school graduation rates. Just last week the WMC spoke to this very matter, but perhaps you were caught up in the excitement over the same-sex marriage ruling like the politicians you write about and so missed the news stories.

    You might want to check that war on terrorism rhetoric and match it up with Bush 43 before commenting on President Obama. Finally, if you want to make inroads with something and actually prevail pick a topic other than the Affordable Health Care Act. The nation now sees this as it does prescription health care and it will not be going anywhere.

  5. June 26, 2015 1:03 PM

    The ruling today is great to bring equality to this country but now can politicians deal with something that matters to this country?Lets deal with the illegal immigration issue. Lets dal with the open border issue. How about three wars obama has us in? How about high taxes. How about constitutional amendment to finally get rid of Obama care. Can we finally focus on issues that really are important to this country?

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