Friday, July 12, 2013
Should We Say "Happy" Instead?
June 26, just a few days before I headed overseas to this beautiful country which is all too briefly acting as my home away from home, the land that I love righted a wrong of nearly two decades. The Supreme Court of the United States, by a shockingly narrow margin of 5-4 overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, declaring it unconstitutional, a watershed moment in LGBTQ rights and a gateway to legalizing marriage equality nation-wide.
I cried. I celebrated. I am not gay, but I am also not unaffected. Like so many, I immediately turned to social media to share my love and excitement and support of my friends, family and community. And I was shot down by a friend of mine, not because he didn’t support marriage equality but because he took issue with my use of the term “Gay Weddings”.
I considered taking down my post, concerned that somehow my distinction of gay marriage or gay wedding was somehow defamatory, some sort of disguised or misguided discrimination that I wasn’t aware of. I actually spent several days germinating on this. And then it struck me why I was so bothered by his response and why I simply don’t agree. “No,” he said, “Just weddings. Let’s not call them gay or straight.”
Here’s the thing, DOMA was never about marriage or weddings or who was entitled to love whom. It was about politics, money and dehumanization. The abolishment of the Act doesn’t actually legalize unions of any kind; that is still controlled on the state level. What it does do is require the federal government, law enforcement and military to recognize the rights of legally married couples regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Immediately following the Supreme Court’s decision the Department of Defense issued a statement saying that it “intends to make the same benefits available to all military spouses — regardless of sexual orientation”. Imagine only twenty years ago you could be court-martialed for coming out. Now you might actually be able to get married in Uniform at the Academy, and have military housing and benefits. Yup, all equal. Look at that!
So why am I making such a big deal about saying gay marriage, gay wedding, or same-sex couple? Who cares, right? Because the distinction is important, because for nearly two decades this country has said that gay couples were lesser citizens, that gay officers were not entitled to the same rights as straight officers, that lovers and companions and committed partners, often of decades were not recognized as even having a right to exist under the eyes of our legal system. And because this struggle for equality stretches well back beyond DOMA and still has miles to go before we rest.
I mean, women got the vote like, a hundred years ago. Totally equal, right? And Civil Rights? Hardly worth mentioning anymore with all this equality and open-mindedness. DOMA was like two weeks ago, so Gay Marriage is so last season. The fact is, this event is too important, too far reaching and far too hard won to simply sweep it under the rug with a quick mainstreaming because some people are uncomfortable with the term “Gay.” It is just a little modifier but it represents a lifetime of struggle. Maybe someday we really will be equal and the modifier will be unnecessary. Maybe one day, gay marriage will be legal in every state of the Union and every country of the world but until then, every Gay Wedding is a celebration of victory. Don’t ask us to slip it by quietly.