Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Other Side

         I think Rev. King was right, that the arc of history does bend toward justice.  It seems like a long time coming when we’re in the midst of it, but it does happen.  There’s been all kinds of evidence of it just in my lifetime, these short 36 years I’ve been around.  Just this week, even, significant strides towards marriage equality on the West Coast have happened in both California and Washington.  There will be wonderful celebrations of love as a result, wedding bells will ring for same-gender couples, toasts made to relationships that have been committed for decades and to brand-new ones as marriage licenses are issued with equal regard for citizens of those places.  It is no small thing to have the weight of the law’s protection for your health care, your property, your children.
            The other side of those celebrations of love is the painful reality of what happens when life doesn’t turn out the way you had hoped and dreamed it would.  I do not know anyone who gets married that plans to also get divorced.  Maybe there are couples who go into it knowing there’s always an “out.”  But I haven’t met any of those folks, nor officiated at any wedding where there was less than a lifetime commitment made with every intention of going ‘til death do us part.
            The most painful experience of my life was the realization that the promises I had made with another were not going to be lived out.  That all the therapy and hard work in the world was not going to make it possible for the two of us to continue to keep those promises.  There are no words for the depth of heartbreak incurred in that process.  The family I had helped create, the configuration that had shaped my daily life and every future I could envision, fell apart - crumbling into pieces around us all.  It is a loss greater than any I have known.  It is also no small thing to NOT have the weight of the law’s protection for health care, property, children. 
            I live in a state that does not recognize legal marriage for same-gender couples.  North Carolina completely disregards the marriage license that exists with my name on it.  I was not allowed to have my name on the birth certificate for my daughter, nor even permitted to adopt this child I have loved and cared for since before she came into the world.  No family court in our state recognizes that I am now, and have always been, her other parent.  I am fortunate that my daughter’s legal parent does see me as important, and that I do have regular contact with and care for my child.  There are many other parents and children in similar situations to mine that do not have that option.  Everyone loses – parents lose children, and children lose parents.  It is true that everyone loses in a divorce, regardless of legal rights or not.  There are also some preventable losses, protections afforded to heterosexual, legal marriages in North Carolina that were not granted to mine.
            Much more can be said about marriage, and certainly there’s more to the story of my marriage and divorce than will fit into a blog post.  What I want every U.S. citizen to understand is that legal marriage matters.  It is about justice and equality in our country, for all of us.  Do not feel sorry for me.  God’s imagination, thankfully, is far bigger than mine.  I have a blessed life, with an incredible daughter, and days full of all kinds of love and joy.  Feel sad, as I do, that divorce became the only decision to make for me.  And then get angry.  Angry at the injustice.  Angry enough to tell your co-workers to vote against the amendment in May that would write inequality into our state’s constitution.  Angry enough to rally even a handful of people to call legislators, write letters, protest at your town square.  Care enough about children losing loving and caring parents to make sure we as a state move toward equality for all families. 

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