Friday, May 11, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage + Where I Stand.

I usually don't discuss politics with anyone except my family, unless they are part of my friend Jessica's family. I am a registered voter. I selected a political party when I registered at the age of eighteen, but I have often voted outside of the party. I listen to what the candidates have to say, and do some research on my own. I have never been one to follow the leader - I march to beat of my own drum and make my own decisions. I voice my opinion, even if it gets me in trouble (which it has on more than one occasion).

In the realm of politics, President Barack Obama publicly stated this week that he supports same-sex marriage. Also this week, we learned that voters in North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment, banning not only same-sex marriage, but also civil unions.

Kudos to you, Mr. President - in an election year, this was a gutsy move to make. I applaud your openness to support this issue, because you know this statement can make or break your chances of being reelected, depending on the Republican candidate who secures the presidential nomination (right now, the only three Republicans who are in the picture are Fred Karger, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney - two of these gentleman support same-sex marriage, one of them being the first openly gay presidential candidate to represent the Republican party).

I believe everyone should have to right to voice their opinion without being ripped to shreds. As my father would say when I was younger, "You were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason." Listen to what people have to say, without interruption. You might not agree with them, but there might be something they have said in there that you do agree with. There might be something you learn while listening. Now, I will probably get flack for what I am about to say, but I mentioned before I voice my own opinion. With that said...

I am all for same-sex marriage. Why? Well, why not? 

Will I eventually get married? Probably. Anytime soon? Not likely, which is fine by me. 

But I have the ability to make whatever decision I choose to, and that is the beauty of it all.

After this news became conversation on numerous social media sites I frequent, I connected with my friend, Shawn. He and his husband, Justin, were married in October 2009. I asked Shawn a few questions about how their relationship, and how he felt regarding the recent activity in politics regarding same-sex marriage.

How did you two meet?
We met in September 2003 at the local gay hangout.  I had just started being present in the gay scene after having only recently come out.  I was working part time at a restaurant as a host, and one of the gay servers organized an outing for the employees at the gay bar.  After the bar closed, I was drunkenly socializing with my co-workers in the parking lot when (my now good friend) Sherry – very tipsy herself – came up to me and started complimenting my looks.  We chitchatted for several minutes before finally leaving to go home.  

Since I had such a fun time at the bar, I decided to go out the following weekend despite not having a friend or date to hang out with.  I had been awkwardly sitting at the bar having a drink by myself for a little while when Sherry (in a more sober state than I had last seen her) approached me with some friends and asked if I was the cute Asian she had been talking to in the parking lot the previous weekend.  Grateful that I wouldn’t have to spend the rest of the evening alone, I humbly said that I was in fact the cute Asian, and she promptly invited me to join her and her friends.  I followed them to the back patio not knowing what I was getting myself into, and I quickly befriended her small clique of friends (that Justin was well a part of) that would end up being my social group for the next couple years.  After an hour or so, Justin showed up having just gotten off work and hung out with the rest of us.

When did you start dating?
After a couple weeks of hanging out in our little friend group, Justin and I increasingly flirted with each other, talking on the phone and IMing.  The first time we hung out with each other without our friend group was maybe three weeks after we had met, and it wasn’t a date per se, but we did have dinner and ended up going on a nighttime visit to the beach.  The following week, we decided to go on a proper first date at an Italian restaurant.  Dinner went swimmingly until the end, when I tried to pay with a card at a cash-only restaurant.  Justin had to run to an ATM down the street to get some cash so we wouldn’t have to dine and dash!  

Who proposed?
There was never a formal proposal per se, since our ability to get legally married was sorely limited. (Sure, we could have had a non-legal commitment ceremony, which many choose to do, but we never really entertained that option for whatever reason.) A couple years into the relationship, we did get each other rings (which we wore on the wedding ring finger) as a visible sign of our commitment to each other.  After we had been together for about four years and had moved to Illinois, we started to entertain the possibility of getting married.  We liked the symbolic nature of the act of marriage as a formal ceremony where two people commit to each other, but we appreciated the pragmatic aspects of it as well, such as power-of-attorney and being able to make legal decisions about the other’s life (e.g., in the event of a life-threatening injury).  Although we would have been able to draft legal documents giving us that decision-making power over each other without the need for marriage, there have been cases where those kinds of non-marital powers-of-attorney have been challenged, for instance, by healthcare providers when one of the people is in the hospital.  In 2008, when same-sex marriage became legal in Iowa, we decided to get married the following year, partly due to the state’s close proximity.  

When did you two get married?
We got married in October 2009, with our moms, my grandmother, Justin’s two sisters and their daughters, and my younger brother.  Our good friend and Justin’s coworker, Angel, married us on a brisk Autumn day on the banks of the Mississippi River in Pigeon Creek Park, just outside of Davenport, Iowa.  

Do you plan on starting a family?
Since we’re both students at the moment, we’re not in a place where we could feasibly entertain the idea of starting a family.  Once we’re both done with school, we’ve considered the possibility of adopting a child.

How do you feel regarding the decision to ban same-sex marriage in North Carolina?
As I understand it, North Carolina is the 30th state to pass some law or amendment banning same-sex marriage.  It’s understandably disheartening but not entirely unexpected, given the general culture in North Carolina.  It’s also dumbfounding when you think about the fact that people are so threatened by the idea of two men or two women getting married that they use up all these resources and exert all this energy drumming up support for the ban.  There are so many more pressing issues in this country.  It seems so odd to me that two people of the same sex wanting to enter a legally-binding commitment to each other bothers such a large subset of Americans (ironically, the same Americans who laud stable relationships and implore the government to stay out of their lives, but whatever).  

What was your reaction to President Obama’s statement supporting same-sex marriage?
Obviously, I’m really happy to hear the President say, without any reservations, that two people of the same sex should be able to get married.  However, I know that for a lot of LGBT people, this lengthy process of “evolving” in his thinking on same-sex marriage has been a bit frustrating, but at least we’ve got his wholehearted approval now.  It’s an historic moment to have a sitting president make this statement.  A news story that I read in passing said that Obama still feels that same-sex marriage is still a states’ rights issue, so I’m not sure exactly how that fits into his administration’s approach to DOMA and possibly leading an effort to overturn it.  But Obama’s administration has shown increasing support for LGBT rights, from repealing DADT to instructing the DOJ to refrain from defending the constitutionality of DOMA in several federal lawsuits, so there are some positive signs coming from the White House.

Do you think marriage is taken seriously in this country?
With the exception of some of these high-profile celebrity marriages that end in divorce after only a short time, I would guess that most people who get married do take it seriously. However, given the fact that most marriages end in divorce, I’m not sure that most people necessarily expect marriage to be a life-long commitment sort of deal anymore.  People may enter into the marriage contract with every intention of sticking it out until the end, but it more often than not doesn’t turn out that way.  While “‘til death do us part” is certainly the idealized version of marriage, relationships are complicated and are not always easy, and sometimes the best solution is for them to dissolve.  But I don’t know that it necessarily means that because most marriages end in divorce, people don’t take marriage seriously.  

How do these political decisions affect your lives?
It’s the pragmatic aspects that have the most effect.  We were married for over a year before we were able to enjoy any kind of legal protection in Illinois, as a result of Illinois passing a civil unions bill that honored same-sex marriages and civil unions performed in other states.  Before that law went into effect, Justin and I only enjoyed the legal protections and benefits of marriages if we were physically in Iowa (where we didn’t reside) and if we happened to be present in the handful of other states where same-sex marriage or civil unions were legal.  We don’t enjoy the federal tax benefits that heterosexual married couples enjoy because DOMA doesn’t allow the federal government to recognize us as married.  Issues such as property and pensions will also come into play depending on where we live when those kinds of issues become pertinent.  If DOMA remains as it is and we happen to live in another state where same-sex marriages aren’t recognized, we’d have to draft legal documents just to have things like power-of-attorney and the other legal-related issues.  It’s pretty unfair that same-sex couples have to jump through all these extra hoops to ensure certain aspects of their relationship because of the fact that both parties happen to be of the same sex.  A ridiculous argument that some people make is, hey, marry a person of the opposite sex, and you’ll have all the marriage rights you want!  I think these are the same people who think LGBT people want to marry their pets. 

Image via LA Weekly.
So, what was the point behind this post? I believe everyone deserves the right to choose and everyone deserves to be happy, in all aspects of their lives. We are all unique and different, which makes us wonderful. We all have varying beliefs and we should be able to express our opinions, our true selves, and our love. It makes me sad to see people in this country denied the right to marry.


  1. What a lovely post. Your open arms and kindness show what a nice person you are.

    It was beneficial to interview Shawn for the post so he could explain his personal experience. Who can argue with letting people be happy?

  2. What beautiful words. I raised you right, so proud of who you are and how you think.