I am pleased to announce that as of today, Jeff and I have been married for eight years. That's 2922 days, or about 70,128 hours, for those who are reading this just for the math! It's been a mixed 4,207,680 minutes, with its ups and downs, but overall I'd say it's been good and keeps getting better. The experience has definitely been worth it, and I would hope that everyone could be as fortunate as I, to find that special someone and have the opportunity to spend the rest of your lives together.
Unfortunately, not everyone has had that opportunity over the ages. In some societies it was (and still is!) normal to marry a complete stranger. Royalty often married to establish alliances rather than for love, with the marriages arranged at a very young age. In some societies, if a woman is raped she must marry her rapist! I don't think that any of these make for a good marriage.
To me, marriage is all about the love. I chose to marry Jeff, and he chose to marry me, because we felt so much love for one another that spending the rest of our lives together was the only choice for us. It didn't matter who his family was or how much money either of us had; my father didn't have to give Jeff any cattle as payment; it didn't matter that our families were unconnected and that this connection brought no new prestige to either side. Neither family gained anything but a new family member to love. Our religious, ethnic, and racial backgrounds were irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was the love we had for each other, the love that we continue to nurture in our hearts, the love that has grown even bigger over the years!
We had a big wedding, inviting everyone we knew and could tolerate. The wedding was held at the Loudoun House, the home of the Lexington Art League, and my mother, licensed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky to perform marriages, signed the legal papers. (Actually, my sisters were the witnesses on the marriage license. The license makes it look suspiciously like a shotgun wedding but I can assure you that was not the case.)
While there were religious elements to the wedding (for example, Jeff's brother gave a very moving prayer), it was overall a non-religious wedding. It was more like a ritualized statement in front of all these people (and God, for the one of us who believes in God) that we were committing to a life together. Marriage is not exclusively a religious condition; the state recognizes the commitment of the religious and non-religious alike. I was glad that it was possible to have our relationship, our commitment, and our love for one another legally recognized.
What is most unfortunate is that not everyone can marry the love of their life, even in this land of freedom. How would you feel if legal technicalities kept you from becoming family with the person you love?
It used to be that anti-miscegenation laws prohibited marriage between people of two different races. Based on an interpretation of the Bible (the story of Phinehas in particular) asserting that the different races of people were not meant to mix, these laws were upheld until 1967 when the Supreme Court overturned Virginia's "Racial Integrity Act of 1924" in their unanimous decision on the case Loving v. Virginia. The Lovings were an inter-racial couple originally residing in Virginia who had gone to Washington, D.C. to marry, in an attempt to evade Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws. Upon their return to Virginia they were tried and convicted, and sentenced to one year of prison, which would be suspended if they left Virginia and did not return. The couple moved to Washington, D.C. and from there began a lawsuit that eventually made its way to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, however, they lost several appeals, including one in which the law was upheld because it was discriminatory against people of all races, so therefore was not discriminatory. In the end, the Lovings prevailed, with the Supreme Court ruling unanimously on their side. Although all anti-miscegenation laws were thereby invalid, the last one on the books, in Alabama, was repealed by referendum in 2000, with only 60% voter support for the repeal! (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miscegenation)
Physical characteristics such as race are irrelevant compared to love, when it comes to choosing whom to spend the rest of your life with. What I love about Jeff is his personality, not the color of his skin. He would make me feel the same way whether his skin was white, black, or orange!
While anti-miscegenation laws have been repealed, there are still laws prohibiting two unmarried people who are in love from marrying one another. Couples who are of the same sex are not allowed to marry, which is truly a travesty. Why should they be denied the same opportunity for bliss that Jeff and I have been afforded?
There are many people who express Biblically-based opposition to same-sex marriage. I am not a biblical scholar so I will not debate the validity of this interpretation, except to note that there are scholars and earnestly religious people who draw completely opposing conclusions from the very same Bible. That being said, their opposition comes from their interpretation of the Bible and while they are free to interpret the Bible in any fashion they choose, their freedom ends where my freedom begins, which is outside their churches and homes.
If you don't want same-sex marriage, then don't marry someone of the same sex. If your church is opposed to same-sex marriage, then don't perform same-sex marriages in your church! But permit those who would like to marry a partner of the same sex do so in a secular ceremony. After all, heterosexual non-believer couples can marry in a secular ceremony! Jeff and I were not married by a minister, although religious rituals such as prayer were performed at our wedding ceremony. Religion does not control secular heterosexual marriage (beyond prohibiting non-believers from marrying in that particular religion), and its control should not extend to secular marriages of any kind.
Well, Rebecca, you may be saying, if we allow homosexuals to marry, the next thing that will happen is that people will be wanting to marry their cats. I think this slippery-slope argument is silly; the line should be drawn where the involved parties are able to give legal consent. That's why we prohibit child marriage and why we should continue to prohibit human-animal marriage.
The real slippery-slope argument that people should be concerned about is plural marriage. Personally, as long as consent is met, I don't have a problem with plural marriage. While it's certainly not for me, there are plenty of other activities which are also not for me, and I don't see that that's a valid reason to prohibit something. I mean, I don't like cream cheese, but I don't think that my dislike of it gives me the authority to outlaw the consumption of cream cheese. Sky-diving is also not for me, but many people get great enjoyment out of it. Why should my personal preferences prohibit someone else from having happiness in their life? Obviously, I'm not talking about something like someone who takes great pleasure in murder. I'm referring to people who want to participate in an activity that brings them pleasure and harms at most themselves.
If homosexuality is indeed a sin, it is a sin that harms only those who are participating in it. It doesn't make any difference in my life whom the letter carrier spends his life with or whom my professor loves. If their behavior ensures them a one-way ticket to an unpleasant afterlife, that's their problem. Assuming I'm not on that route myself, I'll be having such a great time in Heaven that I won't hardly know that they're missing. I see nothing wrong with religious groups excluding people based on behavior that violates their religious tenets, however. But this exclusion should not extend beyond the religious group itself.
If you believe that someone you care about is sinning, tell them, pray for them, but remember that it is your belief and their beliefs may be different! We are all given free will and no matter how much we love another person, we cannot force them to behave as we wish. Otherwise, trust me, cream cheese would be a figment of someone's imagination and sky-diving would be no more than a dream. And all people, independent of race, class, religion, or sexual orientation, would be able to marry the love of their life.