As of this week, gays can marry in DC. It happened quietly, relatively speaking. I’m proud to live in a city where, if my partner Jeff and I wanted to, we could tie the knot. It feels like progress, although as a nation, we have a long way to go. We have friends who are going to marry and celebrate, and we plan to be there, celebrating along with them.
So, the question is, will we marry? We’ve been asked this by gay and straight friends alike several times this week. Jeff and I are loyal creatures by nature, and we love and respect one another. When we visualize our future, it’s a future together. If this were all we had to consider in answering this question—and perhaps it should be all—then we would say, well, aren’t we already married—if in fact, marriage is a union of body and spirit, sealed with a bond of trust.
But that’s not what friends mean when they ask, “Will you get married?” They mean legally, and yes, politically. Of course, the two are linked. There are several compelling, although rather unromantic reasons, to make this emotional bond, a legal one. By doing estate planning several years ago, Jeff and I dealt with many of the practical concerns . . . and I should add, if we had a child or thought we might adopt, then the decision would be much clearer.
But Jeff and I don’t want the formal declaration of our love to be viewed as chiefly a political act. I know, I know. It’s an important statement to make, but I struggle with doing it for political reasons or with politics mingling with our other motivations for doing it. I turned away from organized religion for similar reasons. I wasn’t interested in having my identity tethered to a set of common associations or beliefs. (I admire those who do belong to an organized religion and defy social or political stereotypes, though.) I don’t want my choice for declaring love to be wrapped up in sticking it to narrow-minded Americans who oppose the right for a man and a man to marry.
I’m comfortable with not belonging. I like to stand back from a crowd and look on, at times with a critical eye and at times with true affection, but always with curiosity. This trait, more than anything else, makes me a writer. And I’m convinced that this trait—which many artists have (including Jeff)—makes us wary of transforming anything deeply personal, such as marriage, into a political statement, for fear that its true meaning might get lost in the protest.
But this is a concern, not a decision one way or another. For now, we’ll stand back, and love and support our friends who are taking the plunge. We may find that the joy of it has more power, more resonance than its political reverberations.
We can only hope for day when such a personal act no longer has to have a political charge.