Equality is beautiful

Despite having lived in New York City for several years by that point, I had never attended the Pride parade.  The reasons why I hadn’t in any given year escape me now, along with all the other irrelevant details of my life.  But that year I decided to go because the Supreme Court had just handed down its decision in Lawrence vs Texas, and I figured “If not this year, when?” Plus, I was getting over the demise of one of the stupider romances in my cavalcade of stupid romantic debacles, and it seemed a good way of distracting myself from my emotional doldrums.

And that’s where I met the Better Half.  We both showed up to march with members of our faith community, and I first saw him in a brief religious service on the street before the parade began.  (His version of how we met differs slightly, as he had already seen me on a subway platform shortly beforehand.)  I thought he was very cute, and made a point of making my way toward him as we began to march along the parade route.  There hasn’t been a day since where we have not spoken to each other.

Last week we went to the local town hall to get a marriage license.  It was the very picture of a banal civic task.  As we filled out paperwork, one of the clerks remarked on how beautiful our family is.  I am not too humble to agree, as we are blessed to have two sweet and beautiful children.  (The Critter entertained himself by leafing through bound copies of old municipal records.  Really.)  Ten minutes of paperwork, putting our names on lines marked “Spouse 1” and “Spouse 2” (please refrain from hyperventilating, those of you who fear that heterosexual marriage really needs defending — “bride” and “groom” remained available for those who wanted them), and we had a license to get married in the eyes of the law.  No big deal.

Except, of course, that it was a very big deal indeed.

When proponents of marriage equality moved to put the question before voters in Maine last year, I thought it was too soon.  I thought that our loss in 2009 had been a clear message that the people of my adopted state weren’t ready to recognize that my relationship was as deserving of respect as anyone else’s.  I thought it would be another bitter defeat.  And I was overjoyed to have been so wrong, and to have had such a wonderful election night to celebrate last November.

This week, almost exactly ten years after we met and almost eight years after we exchanged vows in front of our friends and family in a religious service, the Better Half and I learned that the government of our nation will no longer treat our family as undeserving of respect and protection.  When we have our legal marriage next month, it will bring with it all manner of rights that we would never have hoped to receive when our relationship began.

As incredibly meaningful as those rights are, the feeling of indescribable happiness that washed over me as I saw the words “DOMA declared unconstitutional” on the SCOTUSblog live feed is about more than legal recognition.  It is about belonging.  It is about being able to take our place in society alongside every other couple that has pledged to each other that they will strive to build a good life for each other together.  It is about being told that our previous treatment was unjust, and that it need not be that way any longer.

It is beautiful to be equal.

As I write these words between emptying the dishwasher and folding laundry, with an ear cocked toward my chidren’s bedrooms for sounds they have woken from their naps, I have to pause and remind myself how unlikely I would have found my current situation when I first came out to my friends and family half my lifetime ago.  In the years beforehand, I dreaded the notion that anyone at my high school would ever discover the truth about who I was, and today I see more friends from those days than I can count posting joyful reactions on Facebook to the Supreme Court’s decisions.  Every “like” and red equal sign from those peers whose judgment I feared makes my throat tighten just a little bit.  I am so grateful, no matter how trite anyone might find such gestures in the grand scheme of things.  They matter to me.

So thank you, everyone.  Thank you to every voter who has cast a ballot for equality, in my state and everywhere.  Thank you to every judge in every state that made marriage equality happen through the judicial system.  Thank you to the governors and legislators and advocates who made these laws happen.  Thank you to the five-member majority in today’s Supreme Court rulings.

Thank you, America.  It’s good to be home.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.

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