April 2004

Love and marriage just go together

By Suzanne Strazza

Spring is the season of love. Flowers and relationships bloom in synch. Babies are born and everyone seems infected with feelings of goodness and caring. It is a time for celebration and the ultimate celebration of love is marriage – weddings. I was married in the spring and I think it is the perfect time for a wedding.

As our anniversary approaches, I am so thankful that I am married and that it’s to Tom. I look back over the 10 years that we have been together and realize that they have been really tough, but also incredibly beautiful and loving. We have a rich full life that I am thankful for every day. I know that when we first fell in love and decided (very quickly) to spend the rest of our lives together, there were a million reasons why it was not the most prudent idea: his recent divorce and my lack of longevity in any relationship, for starters.

Then there was the lack of a home, money, career and the fact that we had only known each other for a few days before we committed. These were all somewhat valid concerns, but not for me. I knew I loved this man and that I wanted to be married to him against anyone’s better judgment. Those closest to us saw the love we shared and realized that was all that mattered. And they were right – through everything we have endured as a couple, our love has sustained us and made everything seem manageable. I am thankful that folks let us choose our own path and accepted that our marriage was nobody’s business but our own.

Now I wish that I could say that for the rest of this country when it comes to gay marriages. The way I see it, when two adults are in love and want to commit their lives to each other (and are of sound mind, etc.), it is nobody’s business but their own.

Harvard Law Professor William Eskridge recently addressed the issue of gay marriage on the public-radio program “Talk of the Nation.” He clearly explained that this is an issue of civil rights. He agreed that some churches, as a part of their doctrine, may not allow the institution and that is their prerogative (although I would never want to belong to a church that feels that way). People can choose to belong or not belong to a church based on the church’s stance on certain issues.

But our government has the obligation to uphold the civil rights of every citizen of this country. And as an adult citizen of the United States, it is a constitutional civil right to marry whom you want. Eskridge spelled it out so clearly, adhering to the premise of separation of church and state, that I find it difficult to believe anyone could argue with the man. Whatever it says in the Bible, whatever “God” intended, is all good and well for an individual’s belief system, but it has no place in the making of constitutional amendments. Those need to be based on the “All men are created equal” premise.

If the separation of church and state is one of the primary foundations of our country, then why do I continue to hear that “We are a Christian country”? Isn’t a basic constitutional right “freedom of religion”? If so, how can laws or constitutional amendments, for that matter, be based on the Christian Bible? Does that mean that if I am a Buddhist I can ignore the laws? Shouldn’t laws be made based on human and civil rights, not on the spiritual beliefs of some?

Based on that, individuals in this country should be able to choose whom they want to marry without the interference of others – especially people who don’t even know the couple. If my neighbors don’t agree with my being married to Tom, that’s fine – that’s their opinion. But I should not be expected to change my life because of it.

It should be the same with gay marriages – it’s not up to our neighbors to decide whom we can and cannot marry. That is the job of our federal government and its responsibility is to protect and uphold the civil rights of all citizens of the U.S. Therefore, marrying whom we chose is a civil right and our government should stand up for us.

If two women in New Paltz, N.Y., want to get married because they are deeply in love – how in God’s name could I suppose that I have the right to say they can’t?

All I hear these days are the words, “the sanctity of marriage.” What exactly does this mean? Does this include a barely-adult pop star who gets drunk in Vegas, gets married and has the marriage annulled – all within 55 hours? Or are we referring to the 14-year-old girl who is married to her sister’s husband, or better yet, the 12-year-old married to her own father, because “God told them to”? Can we really claim that these shams represent the “sanctity of marriage”? Are we claiming that these unions are better than a marriage between two consenting adults, committed to loving and creating a good life together, solely based on the fact that the prior marriages are between a male and a female? Are we crazy?

But the really important issue to me goes beyond civil rights, federal government, religion and all the rest. Here, for me, is the bottom line:

There is considerable hatred in this world and it is spreading. More and more there is talk about “us and them, the good vs. bad, the axis of evil.” Love is a good thing – true love is inarguably one of the greatest gifts a person can have. With so much anger and hatred, shouldn’t we be nourishing and celebrating something as wonderful as love?

When I am with two people who are in love, it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a man and a woman, a mother and child, two little boys who are best friends or the two gay men down the street. When I am around that kind of love, I feel like the world is a good place. And the reason to keep faith in the goodness of this world is because the possibility of love exists.

Love makes people kinder, happier, peaceful – why not try to spread this in this world rather than put limits on it by making rules and saying that it’s only legal to celebrate it if you are a man and she is a woman? In my marriage, I have experienced such joy, so much growth and such a feeling of belonging. Doesn’t everyone deserve that opportunity?

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos.