Monday, Sep 28, 2020
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Monday, Sep 28, 2020
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by Jennifer Vanasco - SGN Contributing Writer

"Marriage," the minister said, "is a going forth, a bold step into the future; it is risking what we are for the sake of what we can be."

Marriage is a risk.

We forget that, I think.

It seems very mainstream, this marriage thing; it IS mainstream, it's something that has been part of the culture for thousands of years.

It is so ordinary that there are some Gay people who look at the fight for equal marriage and shake their heads. "But what is the REASON you want to get married?" they say. It's a patriarchal institution, it's anti-Queer, it restricts freedom. It has a mean and sordid history, marked by the memory of women treated like property, of miscegenation, of contracts between families of power. It's more progressive, they say, to not get married. Marriage will ruin the Gay community, they say, blur its edges, make us the same as everyone else.

Maybe. It's definitely traditional, marriage. Indeed, many of the things we're fighting for - the right to marry, the right to serve openly in the military, the right to not be harassed at a job - really, all of these things are the same thing. We are fighting for the right to be ordinary.

But being ordinary doesn't mean not being brave. You can be both traditional and risky.

My friends Cid and Glenda got married last weekend. It was my first Lesbian wedding - I'd been to civil union ceremonies before, and had a domestic partnership ceremony myself years ago. But this was the first Lesbian wedding I went to that was legal, the first one I attended where the minister concluded by saying, "By the power invested in me by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts . . ."

Everyone was crying in the congregation when the Rev. Elea Kemler said that. It moved us, to hear a public acknowledgement of the love of two women - to hear a state acknowledging the love of two women. To hear an entire congregation stand up and say, "We do," when the minister asked "Do you who know Cid and Glenda give them your blessings now as they enter into marriage?" being a witness, that was moving.

The public acknowledgement of our relationships and our lives is important to us as Gay people. We crave it, because we have been so long hidden in the dark.

That is part of the risk, of course. Two women who get married are taking a public risk, opening themselves up to the hatred, disgust and criticism from those on the right who do not want to understand.

But even braver than that public risk is the private risk.

We don't think about it much, because marriage is in fact such an ordinary thing. We are at the beginning of wedding season now, and brides are everywhere in their white dresses, posing for pictures in gardens amid the flowers of their bridesmaids.

Marriage is a thing straight couples progress into as a matter of course.

But marriage is so new to us still - official only in Massachusetts and now, joyfully, California - that before we marry, we still think hard about it. Our families are likely not pressing for our marriage. It's not expected. It's certainly not required.

And yet marriage is risky. That's why not everyone does it. It asks for a leap of faith, a commitment to loving and supporting someone you can never fully know. Half of all marriages fail. What other venture to people dare to try with a 50 percent failure rate? Would you go to college if you knew that you were as likely to drop out as stay in? Get a job if you knew that there was an even chance you'd be fired?

Marriage is a risk. It is brave. When we fight for the right to marry, we are asking for a chance to be challenged. We are not taking the easy way out. We are saying that in spite of the odds, despite the large possibility of failure, we are willing to live in hope.

"So it is not to lofty words, or institutions even, that we appeal at this hour of commitment," the minister said. "But rather to the resources which you two draw from deep within yourselves - the deep well of human need, united and loving, forgiven and forgiving, whole and complete before a broken and imperfect world."

Marriage is a risk. Let us celebrate those like Cid and Glenda who take it.

Jennifer Vanasco is an award-winning, syndicated columnist. E-mail her at She edits the Gay political blog

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