My husband and I are attending a wedding October 30. That wouldn't be especially unusual, except that the event holds particular significance in my own journey as a straight spouse. This ceremony will join in matrimony my former husband and his male partner, and I couldn't be happier for them both. I have moved on in my life, happily remarried. My ex- will now be so blessed. This joyous occasion represents a new chapter for us all.
Until now, the controversy swirling around gay marriage has seemed somewhat academic, though I recognized that real human needs motivated the movement. The Straight Spouse Network and PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) have long advocated same-sex marriage. They note that the freedom to marry a partner of the same gender helps to avoid the heartbreak of mixed-orientation marriages.
There's a big difference between co-habitation and marriage, and every committed couple who desires it should have the legal benefits and comfort of formal wedlock. It's a civil right. Now that it affects the father of my children, this issue has assumed personal impact.
What does legal marriage mean in a couple's daily life? In my opinion, the greatest personal and social benefit is that wedlock assumes fidelity. It obviously discourages promiscuous sex, hence diminishing the spread of STDs and AIDS.
But that obvious argument is only the beginning. A 1997 report to the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. General Accounting Office listed 1,138 benefits of same-sex marriage, including rights taken for granted by traditional couples. They involve medical, property, insurance, tax, and family protections and include
- Joint parenting, child custody, joint adoption and foster care rights
- Property rights; housing
- Tax breaks for married couples
- Shared insurance benefits and Social Security survivor benefits
- Veterans' benefits and military service family benefits
- Medical decisions on behalf of the partner and hospital visitation
- Sick leave to care for the partner; bereavement leave
- Automatic inheritance and assumption of spouse's pension
- Domestic violence and divorce protections
In Colorado, where I live, the passage of an amendment to our state constitution caused an uproar. "Amendment 2" prohibited specific legal protections for gay and lesbian people, including equality in employment, housing, and other commonly assumed rights. The constitutional change passed by the narrowest margin and was immediately challenged by a coalition of outraged citizens. The trial court and the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against it, agreeing that Amendment 2 infringed on homosexuals' participation in the political process and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Finally, in 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the issue in Romer v. Evans. In a 6 to 3 vote, the court struck the Colorado Amendment down before it was ever implemented. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion:
While same-sex marriage was not specifically named in this amendment, matrimony is a civil right in our country analogous to those specified. Justice Kennedy summarized the Supreme Court's decision to that effect:
To those who wonder how straight spouses like me can open so fully to gay marriage, I offer a quote from the philosopher Victor Frankl. We who lived in the concentration camps can remember those who walked through the huts, comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread, giving proof that everything can be taken from us, but one thing, the last of human freedoms: to choose our attitude, our spirit, in any given set of circumstances.
When I congratulate my former husband and his spouse on their marriage, I will do so with genuine good wishes for their future happiness. It's another symbol of the "letting go" that allows complete healing from wounds of the past.
How do you feel about this issue? Please comment on your opinions!