Friday, October 14, 2005
RECONSTRUCTING THE OLDEST OF TRADITIONS: GAY MARRAGE
Jonathan Rauch of the National Journal has a great take...
A cloudy afternoon on a recent Saturday in western Massachusetts. Rain sprinkles the Berkshire hills. Strolling in twos and threes along paths between broad lawns, 80 or so wedding guests make their way to a performance barn on the grounds of Jacob's Pillow. Rustling, cheerful, curious, they take their seats. Gray light filters through high windows and casts soft shadows among the rafters. The barn is not a sanctuary, but it feels like one today.
A violinist, one of the relatives, begins a Corelli prelude, and the wedding party enters. Both grooms wear tuxedos and boutonnieres. The minister, a young seminarian in the United Church of Christ, tall in his robes, begins. Under order of the state Supreme Court, same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, and today the minister will marry Jamie Beckland and Michael Pope.
"Every relationship of love is holy, sacred, and worthy of public affirmation and celebration," he says, with a touch of emphasis, slight but sufficient, on the word every. "We pray that this couple will fulfill God's purpose for the whole of their lives." Emphasis again, this time on the word whole. Not everyone in the hall picks up the inflection, but the grooms do.
Jamie is 27, originally from Wisconsin, now a development officer at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Michael, also 27, works at a private research company. They plan to move to Massachusetts, the place where Jamie lived when they met and the only state where their marriage has legal force. Jamie is taller, blond, bespectacled, thin, with the bearing of the former dancer that he is. Michael is dark, heavyset, as reserved as Jamie can be bubbly, a product not of the liberal Upper Midwest but of conservative southwestern Virginia, a state notorious for its gratuitously anti-gay legislation.
For all the differences, Jamie and Michael and their families have this in common: divorce. The newlyweds' immediate families count eight divorces between them, four on each side. Michael's parents divorced when he was 6, Jamie's when he was 10. "I think there's a whole generation of kids from broken homes who only want to be married once," Michael says. This marriage of two men, so radical by some lights, aspires to reconsecrate the deepest of marital traditions.
A few weeks before the wedding, over coffee at Starbucks, I asked Jamie why he wanted to marry. For my generation of gay men (I am 45), legal marriage was unthinkable, and emerging into the gay world often meant entering a cultural ghetto and a sexual underworld. Jamie, who could just about be my son, replies with an answer that turns the world of the 1970s and 1980s upside down. Once he realized he was gay, he says, he simply expected to marry.
"Why does anybody get married?" he asks. "I wanted the stability, I wanted the companionship, I wanted to have a sex life that was accepted, I wanted to have kids. For me, it's not a choice. A marriage evens you out."
Posted by Grant Bishop at 7:25 AM