Unformatted text preview: Many religions view homosexuality as morally wrong, but the government should not be allowed to base laws off of religious beliefs. I will also provide evidence for decreasing divorce rates for states that allow same sex marriage, such as Massachusetts, which had the lowest divorce rate in the country in 2008. For the personal experience portion, I plan to talk about my uncle Tom. He has been with his partner Jeff for five years. They are not married because they live in Michigan, where same sex marriage is illegal. I believe it is unfair that Tom and Jeff are not given an opportunity to experience the benefits of marriage. I plan to go into more detail about benefits offered to married couples including tax, government, estate and insurance benefits. If two people are in love, they should posses the right to marry no matter what gender they are....
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London is five hours ahead of Washington, D.C., except when it comes to gay marriage. In that case, it’s two years and five hours ahead, which was news to me. “Really?” I said, on meeting two lesbian wives from Wolverhampton. “You can do that here?”
“Well, of course they can,” Hugh said when I told him about it. “Where have you been?”
Hugh can tell you everything about the current political situation in the U.K. He knows who the Chancellor of the Exchequer is, and was all caught up in the latest election for the whatever-you-call-it, that king-type person who’s like the President but isn’t.
“Prime Minister?” he said. “Jesus. You’ve been here how long?”
It was the same when we lived in Paris. Hugh regularly read the French papers. He listened to political shows on the radio, while I was, like, “Is he the same emperor we had last year?”
When it comes to American politics, our roles are reversed. “What do you mean ‘Who’s Claire McCaskill?’ ” I’ll say, amazed that I—that anyone, for that matter—could have such an ignorant boyfriend.
I knew that the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage was expected at 10 a.m. on June 26th, which is 3 p.m. in Sussex. I’m usually out then, on my litter patrol, so I made it a point to bring my iPad with me. When the time came, I was standing by the side of the road, collecting trash with my grabber. It’s generally the same crap over and over—potato-chip bags, candy wrappers, Red Bull cans—but along this particular stretch, six months earlier, I’d come across a strap-on penis. It seemed pretty old, and was Band-Aid colored, about three inches long, and not much bigger around than a Vienna sausage, which was interesting to me. You’d think that if someone wanted a sex toy she’d go for the gold, size-wise. But this was just the bare minimum, like getting AAA breast implants. Who was this person hoping to satisfy, her Cabbage Patch doll? I thought about taking the penis home and mailing it to one of my sisters for Christmas but knew that the moment I put it in my knapsack I’d get hit by a car and killed. That’s just my luck. Medics would come and scrape me off the pavement, then, later, at the hospital, they’d rifle through my pack and record its contents: four garbage bags, some wet wipes, two flashlights, and a strap-on penis.
“There must be some mistake,” Hugh would tell them. “You said it was how big?”
My iPad could get no signal at 3 p.m., so I continued walking and picking up trash, thinking that, whichever way the Supreme Court went, I never expected to see this day in my lifetime. When I was young, in the early seventies, being gay felt like the worst thing that could happen to a person, at least in Raleigh, North Carolina. There was a rumor that it could be cured by psychiatrists, so for most of my teens that’s where I placed my hope. I figured that eventually I’d tell my mother and let her take the appropriate steps. What would kill me was seeing the disappointment on her face. With my father I was used to it. That was the expression he naturally assumed when looking at me. Her, though! Once when I was in high school she caught me doing something or other, imitating my Spanish teacher, perhaps with a pair of tights on my head, and said, like someone at the end of her rope, “What are you, a queer?”
I’d been called a sissy before, not by her but by plenty of other people. That was different, though, as the word was less potent, something used by children. When my mother called me a queer, my face turned scarlet and I exploded. “Me? What are you talking about? Why would you even say a thing like that?”
Then I ran down to my room, which was spotless, everything just so, the Gustav Klimt posters on the walls, the cornflower-blue vase I’d bought with the money I earned babysitting. The veil had been lifted, and now I saw this for what it was: the lair of a blatant homosexual.
That would have been as good a time as any to say, “Yes, you’re right. Get me some help!” But I was still hoping that it might be a phase, that I’d wake up the next day and be normal. In the best of times, it seemed like such a short leap. I did fantasize about having a girlfriend—never the sex part, but the rest of it I had down. I knew what she’d look like, and how she’d hold her long hair back from the flame when bending over a lit candle. I imagined us getting married the summer after I graduated from college, and then I imagined her drowning off the coast of North Carolina during one of my family’s vacations. Everyone needed to be there, so they could see just how devastated I was. I could actually make myself cry by picturing it: how I’d carry her out of the water, how my feet would sink into the sand owing to the extra weight. I’d try mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and keep trying, until someone, my father most often, would pull me back, saying, “It’s too late, son. Can’t you see she’s gone!”
It seemed that I wanted to marry just so I could be a widower. So profound would be my grief that I’d never look at another woman again. It was perfect, really. Oh, there were variations. Sometimes she’d die of leukemia, as in the movie “Love Story.” Occasionally, a madman’s bullet would fell her during a hostage situation, but always I’d be at her side, trying everything in my power to bring her back.
The fantasy remained active until I was twenty. Funny how unimportant being gay became once I told somebody. All I had to do was open up to my best friend, and when she accepted it I saw that I could as well.
“I just don’t see why you have to rub everyone’s noses in it,” certain people would complain when I told them. Not that I wore it on T-shirts or anything. Rather, I’d just say “boyfriend” the way they said “wife” or “girlfriend,” or “better half.” I insisted that it was no different, and in time, at least in the circles I ran in, it became no different.
While I often dreamed of making a life with another man, I never extended the fantasy to marriage, or even to civil partnerships, which became legal in France in 1999, shortly after Hugh and I moved to Paris. We’d been together for eight years by that point, and though I didn’t want to break up or look for anyone else, I didn’t need the government to validate my relationship. I felt the same way when a handful of American states legalized same-sex marriage, only more so: I didn’t need a government or a church giving me its blessing. The whole thing felt like a step down to me. From the dawn of time, the one irrefutably good thing about gay men and lesbians was that we didn’t force people to sit through our weddings. Even the most ardent of homophobes had to hand us that. We were the ones who toiled behind the scenes while straight people got married: the photographers and bakers and florists, working like Negro porters settling spoiled passengers into the whites-only section of the train.
“Oh, Christopher,” a bride might sigh as her dressmaker zipped her up. “What would I have ever done without you?”
What saved this from being tragic is that they were doing something we wouldn’t dream of: guilt-tripping friends and relatives into giving up their weekends so they could sit on hard church pews or folding chairs in August, listening as the couple mewled vows at each other, watching as they’re force-fed cake, standing on the sidelines, bored and sweating, as they danced, misty-eyed, to a Foreigner song.
The battle for gay marriage was, in essence, the fight to be as square as straight people, to say things like “My husband tells me that the new Spicy Chipotle Burger they’ve got at Bennigan’s is awesome,” and “Here it is, Valentine’s Day less than a week behind us, and already my wife is flying our Easter flag!”
That said, I was all for the struggle, mainly because it so irritated the fundamentalists. I wanted gay people to get the right to marry, and then I wanted none of us to act on it. I wanted it to be ours to spit on. Instead, much to my disappointment, we seem to be all over it.
I finally got a signal at the post office in the neighboring village. I’d gone to mail a set of keys to a friend and, afterward, I went out front and pulled out my iPad. The touch of a finger and there it was, the headline story on the Times site: “Supreme Court Ruling Makes Same-Sex Marriage A Right Nationwide.”
I read it, and, probably like every American gay person, I was overcome with emotion. Standing on the sidewalk, dressed in rags with a litter picker pinioned between my legs, I felt my eyes tear up, and as my vision blurred I thought of all the people who had fought against this, and thought, Take that, assholes.
The Supreme Court ruling tells every gay fifteen-year-old living out in the middle of nowhere that he or she is as good as any other dope who wants to get married. To me it was a slightly mixed message, like saying we’re all equally entitled to wear Dockers to the Olive Garden. Then I spoke to my accountant, who’s as straight as they come, and he couldn’t have been more excited. “For tax purposes, you and Hugh really need to act on this,” he said.
“But I don’t want to,” I said. “I don’t believe in marriage.”
He launched into a little speech, and here’s the thing about legally defined couples: they save boatloads of money, especially when it comes to inheriting property. My accountant told me how much we had to gain, and I was, like, “Is there a waiting period? What documents do I need?”
That night, I proposed for the first of what eventually numbered eighteen times. “Listen,” I said to Hugh over dinner, “we really need to do this. Otherwise when one of us dies the other will be clobbered with taxes.”
“I don’t care,” he told me. “It’s just money.”
This is a sentence that does not register on Greek ears. It’s just a mango-size brain tumor. It’s just the person I hired to smother you in your sleep. But since when is money just money?
“I’m not marrying you,” he repeated.
I swore to him that I was not being romantic about it: “There’ll be no rings, no ceremony, no celebration of any kind. We won’t tell anyone but the accountant. Think of it as a financial contract, nothing more.”
“God damn it,” I said. “You are going to marry me whether you like it or not.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Oh, yes you are.”
After two weeks of this, he slammed his fork on the table, saying, “I’ll do anything just to shut you up.” This is, I’m pretty sure, the closest I’m likely to get to a yes.
I took another ear of corn. “Fine, then. It’s settled.”
It wasn’t until the following day that the reality set in. I was out on the side of a busy road with my litter picker, collecting the shreds of a paper coffee cup that had been run over by a lawnmower, when I thought of having to tick the box that says “married” instead of “single.” I always thought there should have been another option, as for the past twenty-four years I’ve been happily neither. I would never introduce Hugh as my husband, nor would he refer to me that way, but I can easily imagine other people doing it. They’ll be the type who so readily embraced “partner” when it came down the pike, in the mid-nineties. Well-meaning people. The kind who wear bike helmets and use the word “conversation” in that new way that I hate. It occurred to me while standing there, cars whizzing by, that the day I marry is the day I’ll get hit and killed, probably by some driver who’s texting, or, likelier still, sexting. “He is survived by his husband, Hugh Hamrick,” the obituary will read, and before I’m even in my grave I’ll be rolling over in it.
That night at dinner, neither of us mentioned the previous evening’s conversation. We talked about this and that, our little projects, the lives of our neighbors, and then we retreated to different parts of the house, engaged, I suppose, our whole lives ahead of us. ♦