By Mike Monopoli
Right here in Massachusetts, and hopefully soon in the rest of the nation, any two people in love who wish to enjoy the benefits of wedded bliss are able to do so. I find the notion that this concept could damage the institution of marriage preposterous, and in fact believe the opposite to be true. How better to encourage stability in relationships and families than to allow every loving couple who wishes to commit to a relationship to enter into a legal union called marriage?
It seems to me that this is a win/win situation. Not only are loving couples able to fulfill what may be their lifelong dream, the benefits to families and communities as a whole can only serve to enhance our society. When same sex couples are joined in holy matrimony, they are making a whole-hearted attempt to form an everlasting family. They are putting down roots, becoming integrated, and raising children who are assured that they are wanted and loved. Their commitment is recognized by the state, as well as by their loved ones, and they are also becoming recognized as valuable contributors to our society. Most importantly, they are setting an example for children, demonstrating that you can follow your dreams of falling in love and getting married ~ no matter who you are.
Back in 2004, the Supreme Judicial court of Massachusetts ruled that it was unconstitutional to ban same sex couples from getting married. The suit was brought on by a small group of couples who demanded fair and equal treatment by the law. An attempt to amend the state constitution to again ban same sex marriage was shot down last summer by the state legislature, furthering hopes that marriage for everyone will be a permanent right.
Indeed, marriage has survived, even thrived, since the gay community was allowed to participate. Certainly before gay marriages were recognized, couples lived in committed relationships but were denied the rights, protections and privileges afforded to the legally married. During unfortunate times such as sickness, some partners were denied access to loved ones simply because they were not considered immediate family. Many of the first to be married in our state were already in long term, committed relationships. They had their homes and their children and their holiday celebrations. Now they have the respect that their relationships deserve.
The statewide phenomenon of gay marriage has also brought business to Massachusetts. Couples are celebrating their unions ~ some in a simple way, some in an extravagant way that rivals traditional weddings. They are booking halls, hiring caterers and printing invitations. Their ceremonies may be as familiar as they imagined when they dreamed of uniting with the love of their lives, or as unique as the very individuals who were lucky enough to have found each other.
Last summer I attended a gay wedding held outdoors on a beautiful sunny day. I was filled with joy watching these two fine young men pledge their love and devotion to each other under the warm sun, surrounded by friends and family. I felt grateful and proud to live in a place and time where this was actually happening. It was almost surreal, but reality set in as the vows were read and the ceremony completed, and this couple’s dream of being united in marriage was fulfilled. The support was tremendous, and although one of the participants confided in me that he had been slightly reluctant to conduct the ceremony in front of so many people, he was glad in the end that they had.
Now that gay marriage is legal, it’s time to create some new traditions. From the figurines on the cake, to who will give away the “bride,” there are many aspects of the ceremony which will become a unique reflection of the participants. What will you call this person you are marrying? Husband? Wife? Partner? Spouse?
I, for one, am having a great time watching this new development in equality unfold before us and welcome the richness that diversity brings to our lives.