I am so excited about the gay marriage decision by the Supreme Court, because some of my best friends are … unmarried.
Before June 26, if my daughters had asked me if they should get married, I would have hemmed and hawed and probably said no. It wouldn’t matter who they wanted to exchange vows with, man or woman — why participate in an institution that doesn’t provide both spouses equal protections?
The history of “traditional” marriage is all about the possession and control of women, children and property. Recognizing the equality of spouses has come slowly. Spousal rape wasn’t recognized as a crime in all 50 states until 1993 and still, today, hurting your mate — officially known as intimate partner violence — is handled inconsistently at best. Physical abuse of children by parents is still subject to regional and cultural influences in how it is seen outside the home, caught in the ambiguities of the term “punishment.”
I got hitched with a lot of hesitations, even refusing to give my wife, then fiancée, an engagement ring because it reeked of dowries and bride prices, which still go on in much of the world. In many countries today, women have no right to choose their husband, to leave a bad situation, or to protect themselves or their children.
The ruling by the Supreme Court signals more than a right for a man to marry a man, or a woman to marry a woman. It is really about marriage equality in the biggest sense — that people who chose to establish a legal relationship, and make a home, and maybe raise children together, must be treated fairly by public institutions like restaurants, schools, hospitals, and courts. This is not about a “gay agenda” but about family strength. Who will be notified if a child gets sick at school? Who will be allowed to visit a family member in the hospital? Who will be allowed to inherit property upon a parent or partner’s death?
I tell my daughters that love and respect are essential to a strong relationship, but marriage is about the nuts and bolts of living together, building a life and a family. I receive many advantages from tying the knot — cheaper insurance, advantages in estate planning, joint medical coverage and benefits — on top of all that other good stuff that comes from walking down the aisle with a wonderful partner of more than 23 years.
Marriage is key to strong families. Even when parents split up, starting out with the commitment to raise your children together signals the importance and value you place on your children.
Now, with a clear conscience, I can say to my daughters: Yes, get married, especially if you’re going to raise kids, because marriage is about equality, shared hard work, love and respect in your relationship and under the law, no matter who you choose to wed.
Just make sure I’m invited to the wedding, and that I get to take the grandkids for ice cream regularly.