In January my folks, Jeff and I went on an eleven day cruise to celebrate my sixtieth birthday. It was a fabulous trip, we visited the “ABC” islands off the coast of South America: Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao; entered the Panama Canal and visited Panama and Costa Rica. Jeff and I shared a particularly tender and exciting day in Bonaire, where we rented a motor bike and explored the more remote part of the island. It was the first time that Jeff and I had been on a bike together and I found the experience to be immensely erotic and freeing. Besides the seductive allure of the bike’s vibration, my arms wrapped around my man in open view fed my soul and spoke to something I had been missing. Perhaps my feelings were fueled by doing all of the driving at home since Jeff doesn’t drive. Now on a small island thousands of miles away from the Department of Motor Vehicles, I could let my man escort me on an odyssey of busy city center streets and remote winding roads that circled the islands coral reefs and turquoise water. We stopped to swim, and looked with wonder at wild boars, roadside goats and flocks of flamingos. At times I buried my face into the back of Jeff’s neck, soaking in the warmth of the sun and his skin, reveling in the safety, unadulterated joy and the immense comfort that stems from an open and loving relationship.
Evenings on the ship always found us at some point in the casino. Jeff formed a sweet and playful bond with six Europeans at the roulette table, over drinks and on the dance floor. Jeff was especially fond of one couple, Myriam and Koen. They shared that their son had come out at fifteen and that he was now very involved in HIV awareness efforts in Belgium. Towards the end of our cruise, as I was playing video poker with my parents in close proximity, I turned to see our European friends approaching me and taking their positions in a fung shway balanced tableau. I was clueless as Jeff appeared and took his position in front of me on bended knee and presented me with a stunning and handsome diamond band. He was beaming and asked me if I would marry him. Not knowing how much of his beaming was a result of pre-celebration drinking, I was at first cautious and responded that I thought after twelve years together we were already married. But my initial response felt like a cop out. As I studied Jeff closer I saw the excitement and vulnerability in his eyes. I quickly awakened to the sincerity of his words and responded, “Of course I will.”
The book I brought to read on the cruise was Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, her followup to Eat, Pray, Love. In Committed, she pursues her love relationship with Brazilian-born Felipe who has an Australian citizenship, reflects on her own feelings about marriage, and studies people’s views on marriage throughout the world. Gilbert is forced to deal with her own ambivalent feelings about marriage when Felipe is essentially deported from the United States. Homeland Security has determined that he has used his work visa too many times and unless they are married they can’t live together in the Untied States. Gilbert emphasizes the point that while marriage is a viable option in her particular situation, it is not an option for same sex couples since marriage of same sex partners is not recognised by the United States.
Gilbert proposes that she is convinced that ”gay marriage is coming to America first and foremost because marriage here is a secular concern, not a religious one. The objection to gay marriage is almost invariably biblical, but nobody’s legal vows in this country are defined by interpretation of biblical verse… A church wedding ceremony is a nice thing, but it is neither required for legal marriage in America nor does it constitute legal marriage in America. What constitutes legal marriage in this country is that critical piece of paper that you and your betrothed must sign and then register with the state. The morality of your marriage may indeed rest between you and God, but it’s that civic and secular paperwork which makes your vows official here on earth. Ultimately, then, it is the business of America’s courts, not America’s churches, to decide the rules of matrimonial law, and it is in those courts that the same-sex marriage debate will be finally settled.”
That I choose to address this issue at a time of such personal happiness in my life is indicative of the times in which we live. Being true to oneself and being true to love is often a political statement. When we live our truth we often rattle the cages of injustice and prejudice; even when perhaps our main desire is to simply be ourselves and bask in our joyful and intimate connection with another. And yet I clearly realize it is time for each of us to step outside our comfort zone and settling for second class status. It is time for us to stop being civil about unions; and insist that marrying rights are afforded to all.
Although in my heart I will hold dear and remember those sweet moments when I squeezed Jeff’s torso with abandon as we rode together in a distant land; I will not forget the importance of continuing to question authority, injustice, and laws here at home which deny the basic freedoms of us all.