Since SCOTUS declared Same-Sex Marriage the new Law of the Land, Contributor MICHELLE SHAIL remembers how the Catholics, Mormons & Gays collided to create the New American Family.
To exist is to change. To change is to mature. To mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly. The French philosopher Henri Bergson wrote that as he deconstructed religious driven, puritanical ideals about society. Multiplicity was probably a rather modern logical theory for the Victorian Era, but who knew its proof would unfold in a landmark decision for Marriage Equality.
Seven years ago, I was a married, catholic mother-of-three when asked to write about a ballot initiative called Proposition 8. “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Not only did it eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry, but eradicated 18,000 marriages that had already been legally performed. Religious organizations collected upwards of $40M to promote the cause, and it was the only instance in US history where civil and pre-existing rights were taken away from a specific and targeted minority.
Back in North Carolina, my then six-year-old had chosen Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz as her costume for Halloween, and she and her metaphorical traveling companions were off in the search of a place called home. Today, she has two, and lives in tandem between her father and I who now live independently. Just as the US Supreme Court annuls the argument that same-sex couples “reduce the rate of opposite sex couples to stay together and support their children,” we breeders find ourselves with fewer patsies than ever to blame. People make deeper commitment to things they actively choose, and exercising our freedom of choice is critical to being responsible.
What precipitates social change? Twelve years ago, a mere 32% of Americans approved of same-sex marriage. Today, that statistic is trending with a majority of 60% of America approving of and endorsing Marriage Equality. Indeed, same-sex marriage is the new law of the land, but as I cleaned out our shared closet of 18 years, and signed the last documents to dissolve our marriage, my heart was heavy. We’d done all the right things. We sought the advice of financial planners, attended church and counseled with our pastor, we even sought the conventional wisdom of our parents. Three children we are proud of emerged, yet our personal relationship was tenuous. But for all the things we did right, and all the stuff we were lousy at, I’ve yet to pin the dissolution of our marriage on our gay neighbors, friends, colleagues or community.
Marriage Equality is an opportunity to challenge our mindsets about men and women, too. Gender Roles are the real culprit of the breakdown of marriage and family. I cried in my closet that day when I packed up my belongings into a box marked ‘memories.’ But in that raw emotion I realized that we missed what mattered the most – the way we treat one another. We were caught, unbeknownst to our conscious minds, into limited ideas of ourselves, unable to exercise our own individuality while our intrinsic needs begged to be acknowledged.
Sometimes wrong choices can bring us to the right places. Divorce, for instance, has proven to be an opportunity for renewal. I relinquished my demons about gender stereotypes and redefined my personal idea of Home. No longer based on religious norms, or the riggers of society, our shared commitment to our children is based upon equal though separate responsibility for their care and well-being. We’ve forged a new personal relationship based on mutual respect, and someday may even reconnect as Traveling Companions in this thing called life.
Can we really go on creating ourselves endlessly? Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Marriage Equality and the new conversation about Transgender Rights is consistent with democratic principles, and an opportunity to bring our unconscious beliefs forward for examination. In this we create a rainbow highway of options to new realities. Diversity is the act of thinking independently—together. As we celebrate our new modern family, the band of hope, prosperity and equality plays on.
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