"Gay Marriages Will Be A Blessing to My Own"

In today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Amanda Seligman writes that she didn’t at first want to marry her fiancé because she didn’t want to participate in something that excludes her gay loved ones. She figured they would just have a church wedding and hold off on the legal wedding until her gay friends could also legally marry.

But then, reality struck. What does it mean to build a life together without the protections of a legal marriage?
In the end, though, I wanted the legal and social protections that marriage offers to heterosexuals in America. I was about to take my first full-time job; I wanted to make sure that my husband would be able to share my health insurance. I worried about one of us being hospitalized in an emergency; I did not want medical personnel to keep us apart because we were not related. We were planning to have children; I wanted them to have two parents who could not escape responsibility for them.

I was pretty sure there were other legal benefits of marriage that I did not know about yet. I learned about one recently when we had wills drawn up. The attorney introduced us to the 'double step up in basis' that is a huge tax break for widows and widowers. In fact, the federal and Wisconsin governments offer more than 1,200 benefits to married heterosexual couples.

Drawing up private documents to ensure us these rights would cost thousands of dollars--an expense that our gay and lesbian friends routinely pay to protect themselves and their children. And even then, some financial benefits offered by the government would not be covered.

So I decided to have a legal marriage as well as a church wedding. For the wedding ceremony, we tried to signal to our gay and lesbian friends that ours was meant to be gay wedding as well as a straight one. We got married in a church that solemnizes gay and lesbian weddings on the same terms as straight ones.
She says that she felt optimistic about the possibilities for marriage equality to spread. But now, she’s having second thoughts.
But I am starting to think that perhaps I was too optimistic. The federal government and many states have passed 'defense of marriage' laws that restrict marriage to heterosexual couples.

In November, Wisconsin voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to restrict marriage to heterosexuals and to prevent the recognition of civil unions and other forms of domestic partnership.

Did I make a moral mistake in getting married to the man I love? I am starting to wonder if perhaps I did.

Opponents of gay marriage often say that recognizing gay marriages will diminish their own heterosexual ones. I do not see it that way.

The recognition that gay and lesbian unions are as solemn, as sacred and, one day, as legal as heterosexual ones will give those couples and their children protections that they need and deserve. And that recognition will make me more comfortable in my own holy union. Gay marriages will be a blessing to my own.
Amanda's story reminds me of when my partner's brother, Adam, married. During the toast section of the evening, Adam stood up and solemnly told everyone gathered that his marriage would be tainted and less meaningful until his brother, my partner, could experience the same.

In many ways, what Adam said at his wedding was a promise, and both he and his wife have put money and time into this effort. They worked for hours every week as phone bank captains during the recent constitutional amendment battle in Oregon. And they continue to support Fair Wisconsin's campaign from afar.

What folks like Adam and Amanda remind us is that this ban demeans all marriage: it writes discrimination into the Constitution in the name of "protecting marriage." It demeans existing marriages between opposite-sex couples and the relationships of loving, committed gay couples.


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