As I am sure you have all heard, the United States Supreme Court ruled today in favor of same-sex marriage, completely wiping away the last vestiges of discrimination against same-sex couples wishing to marry. This news comes on the day that my wife, my mother, and I were setting up my wife’s and mine wedding celebration party for those unable to attend our wedding in Iowa. Fitting and poetic.
I didn’t know that Same-Sex marriage was up on SCOTUS’ docket. I’ve been finishing a paramedic program that has taken my time and attention away from the outside world. So when I saw Facebook explode this morning with the news I find myself smiling and laughing at a beautiful surprise.
I honestly never thought I would see this day in my lifetime. Despite the fact that I have seen such amazing growth in the last 10 years, the conservative (and sometimes terrifyingly violent) dissent against same-sex marriage from religious and conservative ideologies, left me believing this day would never come. Who would really blame me. I was jumped and beaten for the assumption I was gay before I even understood what the word meant in today’s vernacular.
So today I spent laughing and cooking with my wife and mother, and went out to dinner with a beautiful friend whom I haven’t seen in such a long time. Today was such a normal, beautiful day and the knowledge that I could go anywhere with my wife, and not worry about whether our marriage will be recognized, just made the day peaceful and relaxed.
Then came the dissenting voices. The violent, angry, terrifying voices from people I have never met screaming at their perceived injustice. Government representatives stating that they are already plotting new laws and referendums to circumvent the new law or just blatantly spewing hatred and calling for violence. Some even state that they fear for their religious rights.
And through all of it I’m just so confused.
Because I don’t know these people. I don’t know what their lives are like, or the struggles they face, and although I do not know them I do know this: I am not taking their rights away. I will gladly fight to protect their rights. Their right for a place to worship. The right to believe in what they believe in. The right to live where they want to live. The right to raise their children the way they feel their children should be raised. I will stand by them and help them protect what is legally theirs to have.
But when did having a right mean that someone else must be deprived of one? When did it become okay that in order for someone to have the life they want, that someone else must suffer for it?
And when did my life, and my beliefs, ever interfere or even stop, someone from having their own?
I have always loved this country because I was brought up on the belief that our land was the land of the free. Where people may come and live their life in peace as long as they did not cause any harm to others in the process of finding their liberty. I mean, yes technically our country was built upon the destruction of other people and their way of life, but that is not something that I can change. That is the past and I have no say.
But I do have a voice today, and I can call out when the past is repeating itself; which I have been for the last 13 years.
But that doesn’t mean that I, in my pursuit to be legally recognized by my country as a person in a marriage, would ever have a right to deny someone else his/her rights. As long as the right in which an individual is aiming for does not cause harm to someone else.
And try as some may in this argument, same-sex marriage does not cause harm to any single person. Because, as I write these words, no one who opposes my viewpoint has been killed by my existence. I have not beaten, or scarred, or murdered anyone because they believed that I was an abomination. And while I may feel that some viewpoints towards me are saddening and scary, I have no right to deny someone that right to think that way.
The constitution does not work this way. It is a living, breathing way of life. Not just a document, but a way of life that has grown with this country. If it didn’t, this country would have folded in its early years. But it didn’t, because our country, and our people, have grown with changing attitudes and beliefs.
Do I think it is wrong to deny someone a service based on their gender, sex, age, sexual orientation, race and so forth? Yes. Because under every one of those categories is one unalienable truth: we are human.
We breath. We eat. We cry and laugh and we count each year in celebration and tremble in the fear of illness. We fight for freedoms, and help our neighbors. Sometimes we hurt others physically and receive punishment for it. Sometimes our words are comforting, and sometimes they are debilitating, and all the while this is happening there is a beating heart, the rush of blood through veins and we all begin and end our existence in the same way.
So to those who feel angry and violated today I am truly sorry. Not sorry you somehow feel slighted, because in reality today will not have any impact whatsoever on your life. Your life will not end because I am married to my wife. Your beliefs and understanding of your beliefs will not alter because I am married to my wife. How you decide to raise your children will not alter because I am married to my wife. You do not know me. I do not know you. If we passed in the street, your world will not suddenly change.
I am sorry because in your blind hatred you failed to see what truly happened today. Because it was not your world that changed today. It was mine. Because now I am free to pursue my freedom like you have, without fearing you. Do you know what it is life to fear a stranger? To have people thousands of miles away calling for your death because their religion says so? I know my beliefs would never call for your death. I want you to be happy. I want you to thrive. Yes I feel sad that you hate me so much, even though we haven’t met yet, but that is okay.
Because today, for the first time in my life, I get to live my life the way you have all your life. There are no uncertainties about my legal standing in this country. My wife will be okay if something happens to me. My family will be protected in the eyes of the law, and that is all I need. My soul is my own to worry about, like yours is for yourself.
Do I still fear you? Yes, yes I do because although you fear that you will have to bake a cake for a gay wedding, or lodge a gay couple at your hotel, I have to fear that you will kill me on the street. That you will break into my home and murder me as I lay next to my wife. And while you may balk at that and state that it is dramatic, for my entire life I have spent seeing your strange, angry faces screaming for my death over a T.V. screen. I have seen law officials and government representatives tell me to stay hidden because they won’t stop someone from raping me, or mutilating me.
But today I put away the fear for a little bit, and set up for a party. Tomorrow I will spend a day with family and friends, and I will allow my fear to be overshadowed by love and acceptance. And the next day, when that fear returns, I will continue to work on loving you my dear stranger. Because you are my equal by the law of nature, and the law of man. But please remember this. Religious rights do not trump human rights. You may spend your life arguing and hating me at the top of your lungs, and I will spend mine begging you to please let me live in peace, but that is okay. Us disagreeing is okay because we both have the right to disagree
So, to those who hate me without knowing me, today I have my love to share with you. And I promise not to take away your religious rights. I also ask that you please don’t waste your life in anger. Life is too beautiful to be angry simply because you believe something a complete stranger doesn’t. And please know that if you lay hurt in the street, I will come and help you, even knowing that you would yourself walk passed me if the roles were reversed. Because your existence is just as important as is mine and I accept you for who you are.