I spent much of the day celebrating with my family when the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act was announced. The court’s ruling paves the way for a more equal America for us. Our family is now closer to accessing the same legal rights and privileges that other families already have. Our son will soon have the benefit of a stable family led by parents whose relationship has legal standing in the eyes of the government.
To be clear, I don’t want or need any government to “sanctify” my relationship—governments aren’t in the sanctifying business. Nor do I need government to make my relationship legitimate or real—it’s been real for over 11 years without the government’s help. I don’t need the government’s (or anyone’s) permission to be who I am, or to love the woman I love.
What I want, however–and what I think I and all law-abiding, tax paying citizens deserve regardless of their sexual orientation–are the same legal rights that straight people already get in their relationships simply from having them recognized by the government.
In short, I want equality. And because of today’s decision, we are closer to getting it.
Some of my friends aren’t happy about this. I maintain friendships with people who, mostly because of religious beliefs, don’t support gay marriage and think that today’s court decision is another sign of a declining America, the rise of secularism and godlessness, or the end times. I watched their Twitter and Facebook feeds today. I don’t think any of them were surprised. Most of them know that all the country’s trend lines are moving in the opposite direction from them on this issue. They are resigned to this, for the most part. Some of them are choosing to focus on their own marriages rather than be so focused on mine, which I must say is really refreshing. I’ve grown weary of heterosexual Christians preaching and quoting their Bibles about the sanctity of marriage at the same time that half their congregations, and even many of their clergy, are divorced and remarried—in clear violation of Jesus’ teachings on the matter.
But, I’m not gloating. I’m just relieved and happy about the decision and what it means for my family and our future. And I want to say to my friends who oppose the decision that, really, I don’t think it’s going to be that bad for them. I don’t think gay marriage is going to undermine civilization or family as we know it, and I don’t think it will undermine heterosexual marriage any more than straight people have already undermined it themselves.
If anything, maybe we can help. I know I speak for many thousands of gay people when I say I believe in family values. I believe in commitment. I believe in stability for children. I believe in creating a home that nurtures everyone in it. Marriage is a structural tool that, when done well, can help accomplish all those things. Maybe we gay people can bring some fresh perspectives to the marriage table, and help revive a sagging but promising institution.
Ironically, maybe overturning The Defense of Marriage Act could result in shoring up marriage in ways more enduring than the Act ever would have.
Dr. Jill Carroll is a scholar, writer and speaker in religious studies. She was an adjunct associate professor in religious studies at Rice University, and directed the Boniuk Center for Religious Tolerance there until June 2009. She writes and speaks on issues of religion in public life, world religions, and philosophy of religion. In addition to being a best-selling author, she is a featured blogger at the Houston Chronicle. Her first novel, “Quail Fried Rice,” is available on Amazon. Find out more about her at www.jillcarroll.com or follow her on Twitter @JillCarroll.
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