Why is marriage equality so important? Why can't we just "settle for civil unions" and leave it at that? Why does it matter if it's called something different if the benefits are really the same?
I remember when The Family: A Proclamation to the World was issued in 1995. I was twelve years old and had no idea that I was gay. I remember my parents talking to me and my sisters about it and explaining that it was so important because "the family had come under attack" by people who were confused and troubled by sin, people who thought that they could only love others of the same gender. This was wrong and unacceptable, and the leaders of our Church had made the commendable decision to make a stand in this immoral, Last Days World.
I think about the day that I first wondered if I might be a lesbian. I was a nineteen year old college student. The thought scared me so much that I threw it away. I buried it. It filled me with shame and dread. I didn't want to be wrong and unacceptable. I think about the last year, when I really dared to look myself in the eye and see the truth that was always there. Those feelings of shame and dread are still with me, because the thought still exists for me that if I feel attracted to other women, I am confused, troubled by sin, and caught in the snare of the Adversary.
My whole life has been a preparation for the day when I would grow up, get married, and start a family of my own. How many times do you think you hear that as an LDS kid? I'd guess a whole kriffing lot. It got drilled into my head pretty well. I used to wonder about it, think about it, dream about it. I wanted to live that dream.
Fast forward to the day when I look at myself with that ice cold eye and really acknowledge that I am gay. All those dreams suddenly disappear, go up in smoke, because not only have I gotten the message at home that I'm terrible for feeling this way, now society is telling me that any love I could honestly give or receive from a woman is not good enough. It reinforces the idea that I am terrible and very "less than" and that I will never be as privileged as someone who can honestly love someone of the opposite gender.
Keep in mind that I was married once. I'm a part of those devastating divorce statistics. And trust me, it's not a fun thing to go through. It nearly tore me apart. Because of that, I know with every fiber of my being that if I ever find myself in a relationship that is serious enough to consider taking that marriage step, it's going to mean a great deal to me. I imagine that it's going to be the best thing that ever happens to me. So how is that different from the love that my parents share? Or my sisters with their husbands? How is it less important? Does it seem fair that my marriage to my husband (which failed miserably) is considered more valid than a marriage to a woman (which I'm fairly confident I would give all my heart and love to) would be?
To borrow from Waking Up (robtish), marriage equality means that we support opposite sex marriage just as much as same sex marriage. No one is trying to take away the rights that traditional marriages already have and enjoy. What we're asking for is a right that half our society already has. We want marriage to be legally (not necessarily religiously) defined in a way that includes everyone.
So often when I'm feeling down and terrible about being a lesbian, someone who supports me will remind me that my sexuality is only a small part of who I am. And yet that small part disqualifies me from something that is a big deal to me. If it's such a small part, if it doesn't make me a terrible person, why is it such a huge thing to share one word?
I have a niece and a nephew that I love very much. They are absolute beacons of light in my life. As I've thought about why "marriage" matters so much, I found myself thinking of them. What if one day, one of them looks at their reflection and sees that ice cold truth in their own eyes? What if one of them is gay? What would I want for them in that moment?
It's simple: I'd want them to not be afraid or ashamed. I'd want them to know that being gay doesn't mean that they aren't good enough for simple civil rights and for the joy that comes from being married and having a family of your own. I'd want them to know that their government recognizes their unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
A life alone is not really living. Having different rules and laws for people in the same country is not liberty. And getting married is something you do in pursuit of happiness.
These are my thoughts and I'll own all of them. Perhaps some of my reasons are the same for other people, perhaps those very same reasons are ones that others don't agree with. Still, this is why it's important to me.
I told you it would be serious. :)