Home > Family, Friends, Health, Love, Relationships > (Marriage) Equality: the light in and from us all

(Marriage) Equality: the light in and from us all

I supported marriage equality since before I supported marriage.

“Sure, I feel like marriage is a terrible idea, but there’s no reason my thinking on this ought to control anyone else’s life! If anyone can ruin their life with marriage, everyone ought to have that freedom.”

I’ve changed a lot the last few years. Many of these ways are for the better, although some would probably characterize other changes as “not better for them.” Fair enough! I’m not living for them.

One of those changes, fortunately, was in my thinking about marriage. With only a month of marriage under my belt, I’m still captivated by the romance of having chosen to give someone my all–not 85% or 90% of my all, but 100% of it. That’s the good and the bad. There’s plenty of both.

I’ve had to consider a couple of small practicalities, but mostly I’ve been aglow with the sweetness of it. Was this what I’d been afraid of? Really?

Then I took a trip to the hospital. Everything is fine, and my health is not the subject of this post.

I was asked an innocuous enough question at the hospital. “Do you have an advanced directive?” I said I didn’t, leading the office clerk who’d asked the question to say, “That means your husband will make decisions on your behalf.”


I’d given someone else the power to make life or death choices about me if I ever become unable. I’d made the choice knowing I could trust those decisions–whatever their specifics–to reflect at least dozens of our conversations and to reflect my wishes and beliefs as well as my husband’s own understandings of who I am.

There was little romantic and plenty powerful in that moment. My mouth kept answering the clerk’s questions while my mind struggled with the enormity of that matter of fact statement about my husband.

I’d read articles about men and women unable to visit their partners in the hospital. Unable to make choices for their partners as folks others deemed to be their real family made choices as the partners watched on the sidelines. There are fewer stories of instances like this since the Obama administration implemented rules mandating partner rights and decision-making a couple of years ago, but I was physically swayed at the thought that anyone had ever been exiled to the waiting room who belong at a loved one’s bedside.

The right to marry everywhere in the United States won’t remedy all inequalities worldwide. It won’t even start to remedy inequalities still present within the United States. It won’t make up for a history of people who had to say goodbye to their partners from an unfathomable, unnecessary distance.

It might not be everything, but it is a step in the right direction. Each step in the right direction should be celebrated, even if none individually will someday be identified as the sole, decisive turning point of history.

Please note the love on my car, not the dirt

Please note the love on my car, not the dirt

In that moment of truth at the hospital admissions desk, I saw both the romance and the practicality in marriage. On the other hand, I could not see any reason whatsoever that one loving, committed couple should have greater rights than any other, in or outside a hospital, or that some committed couples must continuously fight–even in 2013–for the rights afforded other couples implicitly.

I’d seen it all before, but somehow, I’d failed to get it. To really get it.

Where before I’d thought of the issue in terms of “marriage equality,” the words sound wrong on my tongue now. They feel even more misguided to my heart since I heard those startling ones about my husband at the hospital.

This is about something more fundamental.


Your life is not my life–your history, your choices, your loves, your losses. None of them are mine. I am fundamentally ill equipped to tell you what your life should look like based on my own personal feelings about and experiences with life based on mine. You, on the other hand, know in great and sometimes terrible detail everything that “life” means to you, and who means the most to you. You alone know who will stand by you and who will support your decisions with their every breath, even if they personally wish you would make other ones. You alone are equipped to choose the configurations of life that will make you look back and feel at its end that your life was well lived as your own, not some generic ideal dictated by anyone else. You. Not me, not your mom, not your brother, not Bob. You.

If someone thinks that the inevitable result of embracing your relationship is societal permission to marry goats, rocks and/or children, frankly, that says a lot more about them than about you. You understand in a way they do not that a core component of a committed relationship is that it is between consenting adults. Those who fail to understand this have no business trying to define and push upon you their visions of acceptable love; chances are they are already perpetrating someone else’s faulty, short-sighted vision of it.

As I heard that hospital clerk’s words, everything I thought I knew about love fell away. Love can be sweet and gentle, but it can also be brave:

  • Brave enough to sit by a bedside day after day, week after week, month after month, showing loving smiles and tenderness no matter what fear resides in the heart
  • Brave enough to honor someone else’s wishes even knowing life without that someone else will never be what it was with them
  • Brave enough to say goodbye when holding on isn’t a good option anymore

My opinions, their opinions, our opinions, they are as needless as they are useless in these moments of decision. They have no business interjecting themselves at anyone else’s bedside, in anyone else’s bedroom, in ebullient hellos or heartwrenching farewells.

Equality is accepting choices others make for themselves: about their clothes, their travels, their jobs, and their hearts. It is about accepting the light in them, no matter how different that might look at first glance from other lights, whether because it’s blue, magenta, fluorescent, polka-dotted, energy-saving, a million watts. There are many ways to shine, each of them beautiful and right.

I saw this before I stood in that waiting room and flashed forward to the choices my husband might someday make about my life and health, but I actually felt it then. In that moment, I felt both the touch of all the lights newly flickering into being and those whose lights, like those of stars, continue to shine though their sources have departed.

That light will be what it will, where it will, when it will. It is a blessed thing to let in that light, our light, everyone’s light, and to see from the glow of its totality the goodness that is made possible only by embracing it. All of it.

  1. November 10, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    Perhaps, just perhaps if the practicalities were talked about more then marriage equality would be closer to being a reality.
    My territory just passed legislation allowing for same sex marriage – and the Federal Government immediately launched a legal challenge. I hope they fail. How I hope they fail.
    Marriage is indeed about love, about commitment. But it is also about doing the hard yards, and making the hard decisions when necessary. Those incredibly hard decisions which exemplify love.

  2. November 11, 2013 at 1:38 am

    So SO so beautifully written!

    I actually had a similar thought process this week at the hospital visiting a family member, and hearing about some drama raised at a friend’s relative’s funeral. It absolutely appalls me that at times when we need family the most (whomever and whatever family may be to us), some people are actually banned from being there for their loved ones. That should never happen.

  3. November 11, 2013 at 4:35 am

    “Love can be sweet and gentle, but it can also be brave:
    •Brave enough to sit by a bedside day after day, week after week, month after month, showing loving smiles and tenderness no matter what fear resides in the heart
    •Brave enough to honor someone else’s wishes even knowing life without that someone else will never be what it was with them
    •Brave enough to say goodbye when holding on isn’t a good option anymore”

    Oh, how beautiful and true this is! And oh, how beautifully you’ve captured one simple truth of a complex (for some) issue and brought to light its importance.

    I, too, remember being struck the first time I was asked if I had an advanced directive. It’s alarming and enlightening. And, as you know, I support gay marriage, too, in part because of that awareness. I’ve argued with friends on the other side of the fence and asked what it would be like if they were denied the rights to sit by the bed of the man/woman they had shared their life with; sadly, most still don’t get it.

    However, I see a wave of change welling up in the generations behind me, a wave that offers me hope. A wave that offers our world hope.

    Such a fabulous post!

  4. November 12, 2013 at 3:14 am

    Yes, just simply yes. Many years ago, in a different time my father held that choice in his hands because my then husband told me before it was necessary he would not / could not do what was hard if it would ever be needed. I am glad I listened. My father had to do what was hard, my then husband never forgave him. Obviously I survived.

    My current husband has said the same thing to me, “I could not turn the machines off”. He has said I will sit with you everyday, I will pray for your survival, I will pray you are without pain but I cannot turn off the machines that keep you alive. I understand, I do. Because I understand, my oldest son holds my Living Will and my DNR, my doctor and my attorney have copies.

    I have long supported Equality, I have watched loving partners exciled from hospitals and funerals. It is heartbreaking.

  1. October 4, 2014 at 8:17 pm
  2. June 27, 2015 at 10:39 pm

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