This is a banner posted outside of my church. I saw it, took a picture, and posted it to twitter and facebook. Because, you know, that is the sort of thing you do these days. I am thrilled to report that my church supports marriage equality, which Washington is voting on as Referendum 74.
My church is not the only one posting banners. Case in point:
I was walking to the grocery store, and noticed two men outside the Methodist church on Greenwood. One stood on a ladder, and one waved his arms on the ground as they discussed the best way to get this banner hung. I stopped to see what it was. Oh! Very happily I stole their time of logistical planning to get a picture. I do wish my shadow looked a smidge less ominous, but the point is there. As standard procedure, I sent this picture to all relevant social media outlets, mostly as a brag. I am so excited to live in a place where so many faithful support this measure.
I see it as a good thing, for a lot of reasons. First, it is affirming love informed commitment and commitment-minded love. Second, it is broadening the scope of what constitutes legitimate love-informed commitments, by providing all couples with the same legal benefits to their commitment. This is huge, for so many people. If the law recognizes my obligations and ability to protect my much loved spouse, so should the law recognize other similarly committed people who wish to do so. Who cares about their sex? I do not.
See, marriage used to be more an economic arrangement focused around children. It is not anymore. People couple up primarily for love and companionship. Let us recall that at its most basic form, the government serves as an enforcement body to our social contract. If an institution is changing to satisfy different needs in the way it is practiced, it should change in the way it is regulated. Period. Cultural institutions that disagree (and are separate entities from the state) and do their own thing.
It is also a victory for traditional values.
It seems to me that the biggest threats in our culture for our personal and collective well-being are vanity, apathy, narcissism and consumerism. Listen to the political rhetoric – you would think that everyone is after what they can get for themselves. Truth be told, the thought would likely be accurate. We are an individualistic society, and to hear many people speak, you would believe that the greatest danger comes from being infringed upon by others. Gross violations of rights are never OK, but existing in society requires that one sacrifice some of their preferences to the common good. This is contrary to a consumer culture of “you are never good enough” which pollutes, encouraging a self-focus that can render one blind to broader problems, and to trust oneself greater than the collective wisdom around them. Consumerism encourages self-centeredness, to ignore the consequences on the broader, interdependent web of being. I can name these things because I feel their pressure and their tug. Sometimes I am aware of it, other times I am not.
Committed relationships require the opposite of the traits I cite above.
I have learned the most about love through committed relationships. I bask in a peace knowing that my family loves me unconditionally, and that they are committed to my well-being as much as I am to theirs. My marriage to Will has taught me so much, and lead me to grow in some incredible ways. Marriage is different than cohabiting if for no other reason than it is very hard to leave. It is not a standard practice for cohabitors to stand up in front of their loved ones and declare that they will love someone forever. We did. I will never forget looking around after saying our vows and being hit by the weight of what we had promised to do. It is one thing to feel affectionate feelings for someone, it is another thing to commit to loving and respecting them forever. Commitment is very hard.
My husband can at times be the perfect model of patience, forgiveness, and tenderness. I have learned so much from emulating his ways of being. And at other times, he is a human being. I learned, because I committed to him, how to love all of him and how hard that can be, because everyone is imperfect. I learned because I made a promise from which it was too difficult to exit when times got rough. I am certain that he can say the same things about me. Frankly, in my life, being married made me a better person because this institution encouraged me to struggle to learn to love, to learn to commit. Being a daughter/granddaughter/sister/kin initiated me to the experience of devotion. I am certain when I become a mother that I will learn more when I take that commitment and apply it to my offspring.
There are lots of people who have been engaging the same struggles that I have started, and they do not get the same social support, legal support, or general acceptance. Why? They are gay, lesbian, transgendered or somehow outside of the old-fashioned norms. If they are going to take up the project of committed love, they should have the same support. If we are going to, as a culture, make marriage about love, then marriage equality is the only right thing to do.
Love, respect and commitment are very traditional values. I think they are worthwhile traits to encourage. It is in our interests, as a society to bolster these ideals, and to support the people who chose to engage them whatever sex they chose. So many other elements of our culture encourage us to be self-focused, self-centered, and take a “me first” attitude. It should be no surprise that the institutions which support compassionate ways of being are supporting marriage equality.
I am going to go check “yes” on my ballot now.