Since the U.S. Supreme Court declared Same-Sex Marriage the new law of the land this summer, the LGBT community has assumed all 1,138 rights, privileges and protections afforded to married opposite-sex couples. Editor in Chief DREW GOWING remembers the Gay Rights Movement and journey toward Marriage Equality.
Ever since the Supreme Court pronounced same-sex marriage the new Law of the Land last Friday, I’ve realized that this crowning achievement for the Gay Community is also a confounding challenge to a group that has often prided itself on being different. As the victories accumulate for gay rights, their institutions, rights of passage and attitudes are fading away. “What do gay men have in common when they don’t have oppression?” asked Andrew Sullivan, one of the intellectual architects of the marriage movement. We don’t know the answer as yet.
From Provincetown to Boystown, gay bars and nightclubs have turned into vitamin stores, frozen yogurt shops and memories. Drag Shows are now filled with Bachelorette parties, while gays migrate to the suburbs to raise their children. The rainbow hued “Just Be You” campaign flashed across Chase A.T.M. screens in honour of Gay Pride this June conveying both social acceptance and ambivalence. Hollywood directors, filmmakers and artists are moving past themes of sexual orientation which they say no longer generate dramatic energy. Even John Waters, the film director and patron saint of the American marginal, warned graduates to heed the shift in a recent commencement speech at the Rhode Island School of Design. “Refuse to isolate yourself,” said Waters. “Separatism is for losers. Being Gay is not enough, anymore.”
No one is arguing that prejudice has come close to disappearing, as waves of Hate Crimes, suicides by gay teenagers, and workplace discrimination attest. Yet even those who’ve embraced Marriage Equality, by racing to the alters, say they feel a loss amid the celebrations. A bittersweet sense that there was something valuable about the creative grit with which the gay community once responded to stigma and persecution.
“Holy and beautiful the custom which brings us together: To face our ideals. Make confessions, offer forgiveness, be strengthened and celebrate. Through this blessed place, in this sacred moment breathes, the worship of ages. So let us be alive to this moment and be joyful.” The late Reverend Elizabeth Tarbox, of the Universalist Unitarian Church, began our Commitment Ceremony thus as we stood knee high in waving grass against the world. It was bewitching, after all, the notion of my happiness being centered in and around just one person. But while I declared my love that summer night in 1997, I was haunted by the suspicion that love—in point of fact— had yet to be tested.
When the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage last Friday, I was on a weekend excursion to Atlanta with my lover. My partner of the past 18 years remained behind at home, and while both marriage and monogamy had clearly eluded me, I searched for the rationale of my own morality. “No union is more profound than marriage,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the historic decision. “For it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.”
Yet marriage is an institution of property, and institutionalizing a personal relationship is a diminution of its intimacy. If or when a lawyer, pastor, sheriff or judge intervenes in your relationship, they've trespassed upon something intended to be personal. Alliances are built upon trust, commitment, and the courage to be loyal. If we need to be compelled, threatened or coerced to be kind and fair then we are neither. For love is not measured by judiciousness, but rather in the generous, seemingly selfless acts of service we perform every single day.
“Marriage is the keystone of our social order,” Justice Kennedy concluded in his opinion, adding that the plaintiffs in the case were seeking “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.” Love, however, and law are two very different things. A contradiction the gays confronted, worked around, and would be well advised to remember in their quest for equality.
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