Gay marriage is legal in Illinois, and I couldn’t be happier.
This week, a bill legalizing gay marriage passed in Illinois. Despite growing up with parents who stayed married because they love each other (44 years and counting—go parents!), marriage was never a goal of mine. I didn’t stage mock weddings with my 20 Barbies and one Ken. I didn’t know that putting a pillowcase on your head and playing “bride” was a thing.
Getting married was never something I thought about, in part, because it wasn’t on the table. For more than 10 years I identified as a lesbian—the longest relationship I had before getting married to a man was with a woman.
In my mid-20s, my realization that I was actually bisexual—just like Lady Gaga!—totally freaked me out. Without my lesbian identity, who was I? I asked myself: Is bisexual a real identity?
As I became more comfortable with myself as a bisexual, I weeded out those who didn’t support me (just like I had to when I came out as gay), thanked my parents for their perpetually amazing acceptance of me as me, and just kind of did my thing when it came to dating. Ultimately, my thing led me to one really awesome man. A man that I could, and did, marry.
When I started dating men, simple privileges like the ability to hold hands in public totally blew my mind. I felt guilty that I could do that. I felt guilty for liking it. I felt like a sellout and a phony.
I didn’t yet understand that falling in love with a man didn’t negate my place in the LGBT community. A community that shaped who I am down to my core. A community that I haven’t left, despite the fact that I married a man. All of this explains why I’m going “like” crazy all over Facebook since gay marriage passed in Illinois!
Getting married didn’t matter to me until it did. And when it did, it became more important than ever for me to fight for marriage equality. That might seem counter-intuitive, but as someone who never had a marriage agenda (though I totally have a gay agenda), I understood and supported the legal and cultural importance of gay marriage as essential to living in a just society—but I didn’t get the emotional part.
Marriage is a declaration that you have chosen to be a family. You can’t choose who you love, but you sure can choose who you build a family with.
Civil unions were a nice start and remain a good choice for both gay and straight couples looking for an alternative to traditional marraige while securing some legal protection. But, in our society, marriage carries cultural heft, so classifying civil union as a gay thing and marriage as a straight thing lends far more importance to one than the other. With both open to all couples, civil unions can carry the same weight because the couple is choosing how to celebrate giving legal status to the relationship, not picking the only available option.
There have been a lot of haters out there since, well, forever, and the anti-gays have gotten more vocal since gay marriage passed in Illinois. Some of them will eventually catch up and get it, others will not.
But I am hopeful—in part because of this video of kids talking about gay marriage—that as we progress as a society, the biggest issues around same-sex weddings will be whether Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” gets over-played. I for one hope that it does.
Related on EcoSalon:
Image: The New Civil Rights Movement