Freedom to Marry (now let’s not get fired for being gay)

2 07 2015

I’m married. No… for reals… I’M MARRIED.

Not just on my federal taxes.

Not just in the state of Indiana.

I’m married in ALL 50 STATES!!!

11540844_891563900926235_6369982575811555878_nSCOTUS RULES!

There is no way that I can express how amazing the past week has been. I’ve been counting down to this for over 2 years, since the 2013 ruling that granted federal rights to gay and lesbian married couples. My lawyer friend, Cindy, told me that it would only be a matter of time before the lawsuits from individual states worked their way up to the supreme court and- the way these things work- it would likely be June 2015 before it got ‘resolved.’ She was spot on.

June 26, 2015 was a day that the previous generation of LGBT folks thought they would NEVER see. They have endured countless discriminatory acts against them. They have been yelled at. They have been beaten. They have had to walk home in fear of an attack. They have been denied health care. They have had to watch their partners die from hospital waiting rooms. They have been turned away from funerals. They have been left penniless when unable to inherit their own life from their passed love.

They have had their love questioned. They have been told they are ‘disgusting.’ They resigned themselves to introducing their ‘friend,’ or- if they were really brave- their ‘partner.’ They didn’t think this day would every come.

11222214_891481457601146_5209594196564671646_o

MARRIAGE IS MARRIAGE

For three and a half years I have been married. Yes- LEGALLY married (as I often have to explain). No, it was in Buffalo, NY (because doesn’t every couple get asked WHERE they got married?!?) As a newlywed, I audaciously referred to her as ‘my wife,’ despite how weird it sounded as it echoed in the ears of my midwestern coworkers. I was determined to claim this word and normalize it. I often got asked to repeat myself, when people’s eyebrows wrinkled with confusion. “Yes, my wife,” I would reiterate casually. Because how can we expect people to get comfortable with it if they never encounter it?

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Today, our world is transformed. Marriage is marriage. Love is love. Typing these words still makes my eyes grow watery and my cheeks smile.

10644926_890978134318145_1803539000570143421_nWe have celebrated our marriage every time it was made a little bit more legal. It’s been kind of fun, I mean, how many straight couples can say they threw 5 parties to celebrate their wedding in the first 5 years of being married? (2011 Elopement in Buffalo + 2012 Reception in Ypsilanti + 2013 Federal ruling + 2014 Indiana ban overturn + 2015 Marriage equality). Now, there will be no more mandatory destination marriages. No more traveling to get married again when a new state passes laws allowing it.

And that’s not all! We have Divorce Equality too!! No more waiting for YEARS to get divorced because they aren’t citizens in the state they got married.

GENERATIONAL DIFFERENCES

As a younger generation gay person, I am blessed beyond belief. I came out at age 29 and I never endured what my wife did. She was kicked out of her parents home at age 17 for being gay. She knows the real fear of being threatened. When we first visited Indianapolis and contemplated me taking a new job that would require us to move here, I wanted to know if we would feel welcomed. She wanted to know if we would be safe.

10455424_675962182486409_7473511755486069770_nI will never forget that Friday, after my full day interview went so well, we went to walk around downtown Indianapolis so that we could seriously consider this opportunity. We were waiting for the crosswalk signal on Delaware Street, and I naturally reached my hand over to clasp the hand of my love. Her hand instinctively jerked away from mine. I turned to look at her, clearly confused by her behavior. Before I had a chance to ask, she said, “I don’t know if we should be doing that here.” I turned my shoulders square to hers, stared into her eyes and said, “Honey, if this is NOT okay in this town, I want to know NOW, before we decide if we want to move here.”

We have been welcomed so warmly by our new city, that this story seems laughable today. We are extremely open, loud and proud. We are met with nothing but love by our neighbors. Even those who clearly didn’t know that we are gay, stammer to correct themselves when I edit their assumptions.

MOVING FORWARD

Let’s remember that marriage equality today does not erase the painful past. These emotional scars are deep for Bethany, and for millions of Americans like her. More importantly, our fight is not over. SCOTUS ended marriage discrimination, but not all discrimination. I can still be fired for being gay. I can be denied a mortgage. I can be refused a large number of basic parts of living, just not the legal piece of paper that affords a married couple all those wonderful rights.

11709658_891482884267670_569629766078156716_nThe marriage fight is over, once and for all. This will bring awareness. This will cause conversations and questions and dialogue about an issue many were embarrassed to discuss. This opens the door for more closeted LGBTQ folks to finally come out to their friends and family. This will let the next generation of kids know that they are EQUAL to their straight peers, and not something to be bullied.

So what’s next? We need to fix discrimination. Let’s start by amending the laws to reflect that LGBTQ citizens are at a much higher risk of being denied, bullied, ignored, and refused service. I’m not talking about RFRA, the black eye that Governor Pence gave the state of Indiana. I’m talking about our state constitutions. In many states like Michigan and Indiana, our local government has refused to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the anti-discrimination language.

In 1968 the Civil Rights Act brought equal rights language to many of us who faced discrimination. There’s a federal version and there are state versions. The original federal language made it a federal crime to “by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone … by reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin.” They have been amended over the years to protect new statuses, like being pregnant (remember when women got fired for being pregnant as a regular practice?) So, you can’t be denied based on race, creed, color, religion, disability, age, sex, or veteran status, but you CAN be denied if you’re gay. Or fired. Or not hired. The list goes on.

11230777_890837747665517_5698155796869169047_nSo, “yay” for wedding cakes and all the happy couples I know who refused to get married until they could do so in their home states. I expect the USPS to be carrying lots of beautifully crafted wedding invitations to my doorstep in the ensuing months. For those of us already married, and, hopefully, ALL OF US, let’s get back to work!

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