Sunday, June 26, 2011

as someone who doesn't know if i will ever get married, and who is not sure generally how i feel about the institution of marriage, the recent decision to legalize gay marriage doesn't have a particularly strong significance to me. i haven't spent my life dreaming about walking down the aisle, so i didn't feel particularly thwarted by the fact that my union would not be legally recognized. furthermore i do think that the institution of marriage is outdated, a condition highlighted by the exceedingly high divorce rate. i think civil unions would be a much more reasonable way to enjoy the legal benefits of partnership without involving religious or traditional notions of eternal commitment.
at the same time, reading that gay marriage was legalized made me feel wonderful. the reason, i think, is not something that non-gay people might consider. in 2008, my joy at the election of barack obama was severely mitigated by california's decision to pass Prop 8. i don't need to get married, and i certainly don't need to get married in california. but on hearing that people had gone to the polls and chosen to state that i should not be allowed to be married, i felt quite viscerally the widespread hatred or intolerance of homosexuality. a black man can be president, but i am still not a legitimate member of society. the masses should still be able to make decisions about the most meaningful events in my life. so at the same time that america made a giant leap forward, gay people got a nice reminder that we are not normal and should not expect a tolerant reception of our lifestyle.
the legalization of gay marriage in new york, then, provided the opposite sensation. for me, its not the legalization itself that makes me feel so great (although at some point in my life i may come to appreciate it more). what made me feel great was the knowledge that people care about us. our representatives think we are important, think our approval is important, and think that their other constituents think that we are important. in new york, at least, we are supported. it feels good.