Columns 2014

Gay marriage… will we ever reach the day when it’s all just “marriage”?

They sat across from me at dinner. It was my treat to celebrate their wedding. Their smiling picture, in which they held out their hands with the wedding bands showing, had appeared on the front page of the ADN the day after the ban on gay marriage was overturned in Alaska. They hadn’t planned on becoming the face of gay marriage here but the quirks of fate had made it so. They were the first to apply for a license in Barrow and, when the three-day wait period was waived, the first to marry.

Whether or not their marriage will be successful is still as much of guess as it is for any couple that weds. Statistics show that living together before marriage, as they did, doesn’t necessarily improve the odds on the marriage working. I think statistics will eventually show that marriage is hard whether it is straight or gay and that both marriages are equally subject to the vicissitudes of daily life.

But all that is in the future. For this one night, I was sitting across from two young ladies who were grinning from ear to ear in total joy at the fact that society had finally given them the right to express themselves as other couples have done through the ages. They’d made the public commitment to each other that had for so long been denied them. There were no cloying signs of affection, no “look at me” PDA moments. There was just two happy people talking about the future they planned together, discussing whether and when they might bring children into their lives, debating the finer points of a variety of locations for building their life together.

The next day I checked in with some of my heterosexual friends to see if their marriages had survived the legalization of gay marriage. They all proclaimed that not much had changed and they were still on course with their various spouses. Apparently, despite the fear mongering that seems to somehow surround this topic, gay marriage does not destroy straight marriages. Actually, I was never sure of how that would really work.

Then I read our governor had decided to appeal the lower court decision and asked for a stay on these marriages. The stay lasted mercifully few days, but as we went through them, I thought of that smiling couple sitting across from me, celebrating their love and devotion to each other. I couldn’t for the life of me understand how anyone could deny them the right to love and marry the partner of their choice, so long as both were consenting adults. I could less understand why the state had any right to be in their bedroom determining whom they could or couldn’t love.

Given the amount of hate in today’s world, can we really afford to turn our backs on any love shared by two people? Given the amount of children in state custody needing a forever home, can we really afford to deny any loving and committed couple the chance to share that love and commitment with a child in need?

If your religion tells you this is wrong, so be it. You should not now, nor ever, be required to marry such couples in your church, mosque, synagogue or temple. But our state is not based on a particular religion. Our state is, and must remain, secular. It must remain an entity of law, not religion. And as such, it has no basis to deny the right to marry to consenting adult couples, no matter who it is they love.

I’ve known one of those young ladies sitting across from me since she was a child. Her mother was a dear friend until leukemia took her from us much too soon. Her mother was also gay. It was only thanks to the state government’s recognition of same sex couples’ benefit rights that her mother’s partner was able to take the two years needed to nurse her from the beginning to the end of that disease. Her mother was never able to marry her partner but her partner stood by her side night and day with as much devotion as any spouse would ever show.

No one should ever be denied the right to marry the person they love or to care for them in sickness and in health. Why doesn’t our governor get that?