Barack Obama has said that his views on gay marriage are “evolving,” and unfortunately some on our side have ridiculed this stance. But, he’s only reflecting something that many of us are doing on the issue. Joe Biden, who has taken the same stance as the President, has acknowledged that gay marriage is only a question of when.
I get it, because I’ve evolved on the issue and, yes, even my politically active gay friends have too. I remember having a conversation with a political activist friend back in the mid 90’s. At that point, gay marriage was a pipe dream, and the conversation among activists was about marriage-style rights and civil unions. His take was “Straights have their institutions, why would we want one of their institutions instead of creating our own?” I haven’t discussed the marriage issue with him lately, but I doubt he’d say anything of the kind now. I imagine that his views, yes, have evolved over the last few years.
When I first ran for state house in 2006, I knocked on the door of a lesbian couple. One asked me about marriage rights. Before I could answer, she said, “Never mind, I don’t want marriage. You straights have f****d that enough up already. Just give me the rights.” It was an opinion that seemed pretty common. And, it was, frankly, an easy stance to take for liberal political types like me that didn’t want to scare people by using the word “marriage.” Even people who were edgy about the word marriage because of their personal morals or religion were loath to deny the right of someone to visit their dying loved one in the hospital.
I’m amazed how the discussion has moved in the years since then. It may be because there are jurisdictions in this country where gay marriage is legal and the larger social order hasn’t fallen to pieces. Heck, if it’s legal in Iowa, how bad can it be, right? The arguments against gay marriage can’t withstand people seeing what a gay marriage actually looks like.
A week or so before Christmas, I got an e-mail from my friend Carolina inviting me to her house on Christmas afternoon where she was going to give a “special gift” to her long time girlfriend Angie. I’ve gotten enough invites like these to know that it was going to be an engagement party. It was touching and a lot of fun, since Angie genuinely didn’t know why all of us decided to show up at the house. Carolina has been dealing with a crippling illness for some time now, and has depended on Angie for much that the rest of us take for granted. I see a great deal of love that between the two of them that’s held through a trial that a lot of otherwise committed couples I know would collapse over. I don’t know why we have a society that would say, “Sorry, ladies, your kind of love just ain’t good enough.”