I went to college with a guy named Mark Morris and we re-connected on Facebook a year or so ago. That’s when the confusion began. I noticed that he was tagging my brother, Michael Morris, on some of his posts, but I know they’ve never met each other. And Michael’s comments to Mark seemed so unlike my brother.
That was because, I finally realized, Mark also has a brother named Michael. As the days went on I realized that our brothers shared a name and were also both gay. (Not to mention that my brother’s partner is named Mark.)
Mark and I were both over the moon on June 26th when SCOTUS made same-sex marriage a constitutional right. Our Facebook pages made that clear. There’s nothing quite so affirming as seeing your country finally getting on the right side of an issue that hits your family square in the face. That SCOTUS decision felt personal.
Every time I read an anti-gay marriage screed I want to punch someone in the throat. Gay marriage is not an abstract concept for me or for Mark. It is a legal decision that has changed our lives, the lives of our brothers and of our families.
Mark’s brother Michael proposed to his partner, Stewart, on June 26th. Mark told me, “The day the Supreme Court Decision came down, Michael emailed Stewart and proposed. He said he wanted to propose to Stewart before anyone else did. They got married on their 14th anniversary.”
They had a small, family ceremony with about 15 people in attendance. The photographs on his page just shouted joy. I found myself looking at them again and again. Those faces, those smiles, that love.
My brother Michael married his partner, Mark, on October 11th. They’ve been together for 26 years. Only my daughter Kate and one of their friends attended with them. Michael didn’t really want a ceremony of any kind, but his niece made him swear to have some sort of event and to make sure she would be there.
My daughter makes a yearly trek to Boston to see her uncles, and a few days before she left Michael called to ask what I’d think about a wedding while she was there. I knew it was the right thing to do.
Even though it was supposed to be an official sort of thing, just a legal formality, it was so much more. Kate said that everyone cried, starting with one of the grooms and then spreading from person to person. On the other hand, I smiled ear to ear when I got her text, “It’s done!”
These weddings remind me that love wins, and it has been winning for a long time.
When the Supreme Court ruled, the twitter hashtag #lovewins won the internet that day and many days to follow.
Justice Kennedy wrote, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”
I used the #lovewins hashtag myself many times, and posted Kennedy’s words on my Facebook status that day. But as the days went on, I found this way of thinking about gay marriage a little unsatisfying.
I’m not a lawyer, but as a layperson, I would have preferred Kennedy’s opinion to be based more on the law and less on the values of “love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.”
It is not the legal status of marriage, in my opinion, that empowers two people to become greater than they once were. Love does that all on its own.
The law, however, makes it possible for all marriages to benefit from the same rights and privileges. Gay people no longer have to legally adopt a partner in order to insure inheritance rights and power of attorney. Bigoted parents can no longer step in and make end-of-life decisions that trump the decisions of long-term partners or keep those partners out of hospital rooms. Same-sex marriages can benefit from tax and insurance policies.
Gay marriage is a constitutionally guaranteed legal right.
And once it became a legal right, two men named Michael Morris were able to marry their same-sex partners. Many years before that day, however, both Michael Morrises had become something greater than they were when Stewart and Mark came into their lives. These unions were bound by love and dignity, devotion and family.
Love wins with or without the law, but I think the Morris families are proud and relieved and joyful that the law finally caught up with them.
Here’s to Michael and Stewart and to Michael and Mark. May love unite you all your days.
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