I sit on the Mountain Village’s 15 Year Plan Task Force, and in our most recent meeting it occurred to me that what we have been doing on the community level – looking at who we are today and envisioning what we would, ideally, like to be in the future – is probably a healthy process for everyone to undertake every so often.
As a parent, envisioning my child’s future is something I do pretty regularly. And it can be daunting.
Will Elle have clean air to breathe and enough water to drink? Will she have wild, open spaces to play in? Non toxic food to sustain her and the rest of her generation? Will she be able to turn on the news and not be bombarded with the day’s war and violence report?
There are, I have found during my short (16 month) tenure as a mother, plenty of concerns that dig their claws into my conscience and make me frightened for my daughter’s future. But, thankfully, there are also things that make me hopeful.
Love, and the capacity for my fellow citizens to embody love, is one of them.
Last weekend, I was one of a hundred guests present for the exchange of vows between two people in love. Two remarkable, inspired people who I’m blessed to call friends. Two people who threw open the door of their shared devotion to one another so that all of us, their friends and family, could bask in the warmth that radiates from two souls committed to the perpetuation of love.
Two people in love, who also happen to be two women.
My good friend Susan told me close to two years ago that she and longtime partner Stacey had decided to tie the knot. As I happily spread the news to our extended circle of friends, the predictable questions, like “When’s the date?” and “How’d they get engaged?” were inevitably followed by the question most just-engaged couples don’t have to field: “So, um, how is that going to work?”
Colorado, like most of the country, doesn’t allow same-sex marriages. So how would Susan and Stacey get married? Would they go to California for the ceremony? (This was before California put a ban on same-sex marriage.) What about Connecticut?
The answer, I told our friends, was no. Susan and Stacey would be married in their home, in Telluride, despite the fact that it wouldn’t be recognized as a marriage by their state or their country. Even if they did travel to one of the states that does allow same-sex marriage, (which are currently Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, Oregon, and Washington) their marriage certificate would essentially be an ineffectual document since the state they live in – Colorado – doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.
This is all because one of them doesn’t have a penis. Or shall I say, because “Marriage is defined as the union between a man and a woman,” and Susan and Stacey don’t fit into that definition.
So on June 13, 2009, exactly 42 years and one day from the date that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Virginia law against interracial marriages declaring that marriage is a “fundamental civil right” and that decisions in this arena are not those with which the State can interfere unless they have good cause, my friends Susan and Stacey were married. They were married in the sense that they committed to each other in a ceremony during which they promised all the things married people promise each other in marriage. They were married in the sense that 100 of their closest friends and relatives walked through mud in their dress shoes so that they could be present on the day that these two started their lives together. They just weren’t married in the sense that since they don’t fit the description of a “man and a woman,” they can’t get a marriage certificate and thus won’t be allowed the legal benefits given to a traditional married couple.
There were, admittedly, moments during Susan and Stacey’s wedding that I felt pangs of sadness for my friends. Sadness that their commitment to one another wouldn’t be recognized – at least legally – in the place they call home. Sadness that people can be banned from something like marriage.
But those pangs were short-lived. What I saw that day was 100 happy people, happy to be sharing a rainy wedding day with two happy brides.
And that made me happy, because I saw in and among that crowd of people – married people, single people, old people, young people, gay people, straight people – that there was a lot of love. And it also made me hopeful, to see so many different people joined together under a tent in the rain to see two women who love each other get hitched.
The inklings of a changing vernacular showered last weekend’s celebration, as we, the guests at Susan and Stacey’s wedding, stood proudly beside two friends who, I believe, represent a changing of the tide in this state as well as across the country. A changing of the definition of marriage to include anyone willing to make that lifelong commitment to another person.
Elle isn’t old enough to know anything about love or marriage or the different definitions of marriage. I hope that when Elle is old enough to know about these things, she’ll live in a place where marriage is for everyone – gay or straight. And I hope that place is here.
Susan’s nephew, who’s nearly five, was old enough to know that his Auntie’s wedding was different than most. He asked his mom, Susan’s older sister, why there was no “gentleman” at Susan’s wedding?
Susan’s sister explained to him that sometimes two women love each other and want to get married, and that's okay.
To me, that definition is perfect.