This summer I counted, and no exaggeration, I am an unmarried person who has been to 73 weddings since I was 4 years old, most I have attended since I was 23. I have signed two ketubas and one marriage certificate. I have been in the bridal party of seven of the weddings. I would say, and this is a guess, of the 73 weddings I have cried at 50 of them. Even though I am still single, I still love weddings - even if it sometimes causes me to temporarily and melodramatically dwell sadly on my lack of relationship success. However, this self wallowing is eventually overcome by acknowledging the optimistic beauty of two people who commit to join together through the bonds of love to journey through life as a team ready to encounter whatever emerges, be it the good or the bad.
I know this notion of marriage is idealistic, especially when about one in two marriages end in divorce. But isn’t this continued idealism central to the American spirit that “anything and everything is possible?” It is not this pursuit of the American dream that has made our country, albeit flawed, so great? Think of the basketball player shooting free throws repeatedly outside during the middle of winter to perfect his shot; the immigrant who opens a restaurant with a menu full of food from his native country hoping to provide a better life for his family; the artist who lives in poverty trying to get discovered to someday make a living; the researcher who works with tiny cells hoping to find a cure for cancer. All of these people pursue their goals because they are driven by the idealism that is their right, as an American, to strive for happiness.
This foundation is based on the 17th century philosopher John Locke’s writings that: “Man being born, as has been proved, with a title to perfect freedom, and an uncontrolled enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the law of nature, equally with any other man, or number of men in the world, hath by nature a power, not only to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and estate, against the injuries and attempts of other men.” (source: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1690locke-sel.html)
This notion of liberty is taken further in the U.S. Declaration of Independence that “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Source: http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/index.htm
The next logical question is, “what defines happiness?” Happiness is anything that does not infringe on the natural rights of others. Just because it might make you happy to kill two people, doesn’t mean that it is your natural right to do so because of the harm it inflicts on the two people and their families.
If, as Americans we believe in this idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then laws such as Proposition 8 in California must be repealed or declared unconstitutional and gay marriage should be federally legalized so that all marriages are recognized in every state in the country.
Last week, I spoke with a middle aged woman from California who couldn’t disagree with me more. “I have friends who are gay. I’ve sent them gifts for their commitment ceremonies. I wish them all the love in the world. But you will never convince me differently, marriage is between a man and a woman and that’s final.”
And you know what, she has a right to her opinion. In a way, I know where she’s coming from. I don’t entirely understand homosexuality, but I entirely understand very little when it comes down to it. I have no idea why I’m a heterosexual and why others are homosexual. I cannot relate to the two guys at Whole Foods holding hands choosing which soda to buy. But should opinion or ignorance or lack of understanding alone be the basis of legislation or should the constitutional foundations of our democracy serve as the guideline? She may think that marriage is between a man and a woman, just like there have been people throughout history who have thought that voting was a right only to be held by white men, that blacks and whites should not be able to marry and that Jews should not be welcomed in certain neighborhoods. Eugenics, racism, Nazism, are all based on opinions, but they are opinions that violate the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” that we, as Americans, hold sacred, more sacred than any one line from the Hebrew Bible.
If members of the GLBT community believe that marriage will provide them with happiness, then why should they not be allowed to marry? If liberty means equality under the law, then why shouldn’t GLBTs be allowed to obtain the full rights accorded nationwide by marriage? If two members of the same sex want to join together through the bonds of love to journey through life as a team ready to encounter whatever emerges be it the good or the bad, why as fellow Americans, as heterosexual Americans, not wish them all the best.
And if it so happens that my 74th wedding is a gay one, just let me know if it’s casual, semi formal or formal, so I know what dress to wear (or buy), where you are registered, and please invite me with a date if there’s not a lot of single people attending, because it sucks to sit through a wedding alone while everyone is dancing. And please. Make sure your wedding planner does not put me at the kid’s table. I know they are single too, but come on!
Coverage from the LA Times