Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thoughts on Marriage: Same-sex and Otherwise

 
I have been married three times.  Actually four, if you count the illegal one.

My first was to a guy I met when I was twenty.  We married two years later.  I don't know why I needed to grow up so fast.  Maybe it was so I could reverse age.  (I do feel younger now than I did then!)

My second was the illegal one.  We couldn't marry legally because we were both women.  But in February 2004, the city of San Francisco announced it was giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  So we high-tailed it to city hall and married on the spot. Six months later we were among 4,000 couples to have our marriage ruled void by the Supreme Court of California.

That didn't feel too good.

But then, a few years later, same-sex marriage was ruled legal in California.  So we got hitched again.  Legalization was short-lived.  Six months later, Prop 8 passed and same-sex marriage again became illegal.  But our marriage--along with about 100,000 others--was kept in tact.  Talk about weird: some same-sex couples remained married while others were banned from getting married.

It was then obvious to me that there was an irreversible crack in the system.  "Everything has a crack in it, that's how the light gets in," Leonard Cohen once wrote.  In light of all these rulings, and in light of what was happening in other states (and countries), and in light of more and more same-sex couples and their families talking about how marriage related to their life experiences, everyone's awareness seemed to be expanding. 

In direct proportion to that growth, my relationship was dying.  We'd been together for fifteen years, but just six months after our legal marriage, we were falling apart.  Marriage Equality for us now meant Divorce Equality.  Kinky Friedman put it best when he said:  "I support gay marriage.  I believe they have a right to be as miserable as the rest of us."

We went through the usual ugly things peoplego through when they get divorced. And then I experienced what a lot of people do after a dark night of the soul:  A rebirth.  A transformation.  You know:  Ashes, Phoenix.  I have forgiven myself and all involved.  I've let it go.  I can now see how much the experience helped me grow.  It wasn't easy to get here, but it's a fabulous place to be.

My fourth marriage?  It happened last year.  I was very aware when Dave and I decided to get married that our genders made it possible. I also thought about how once he and I got married, no one else could take it away.

On the other hand, it was also clear to me what direction history was headed in.  After all, it wasn't until 1967 that the ban on interracial marriage--still existent in 16 states--was overturned by the Supreme Court.  And it wasn't long ago that husbands weren't allowed in the delivery room.  (Some men handcuffed themselves to their wives when they went into labor.)  Hell, in the scope of time, it wasn't very long ago that Americans could own other human beings because their skin was the color of our current President. 

So no matter what the Supreme Court rules, now that it's begun deliberations on the issue, I have no doubt same-sex marriage will, one day, be as much a no-brainer here as it in in Canada, the Netherlands, and Spain, among other countries. (UPDATE: June 26, 2015: Supreme Court gives a thumb's up to marriage equality!)

But back to me.  Some people thought I was crazy to re-marry.  Really?  Get married again, after what you went through?

And my answer:  Yes.  What good is growing if you don't get to embrace what you've learned?   The reality is that we change and grow.  And sometimes we can do that within the boundaries of our marriages, and sometimes we can't.

Obviously, there's something about being married that I like.  My life has been enriched by each relationship I've had.  I can see now that marriage is not a panacea.  I get so much joy out of creating a world with Dave.  I'm grateful we both bring to this marriage a lot of life experience and inner work.  But marriage does not bring happiness.  I bring my happiness to it. 


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