When you get right down to it, we’re not that different. So why is that so hard to grasp?
For the brief period earlier this year during which same-sex marriage was allowed in Alabama, an amazing thing called “Wedding Week” happened. It was a grassroots response to a number of our local courthouses issuing marriage licenses to anyone but declining to perform ceremonies for everyone. You could get the paper, but you couldn’t say the “I Do’s”.
A local park, and later in the week a local synagogue (bad weather stops for no one) hosted celebrants, photographers, volunteers, tables of cupcakes and flowers, and people from Alabama and surrounding states who came to get married or celebrate with their loved ones. No one was charged; no one was turned away. There were a few couples who hadn’t known the courthouse was not doing weddings and wound up at wedding week. One sticks out to me. I wasn’t there – one of my partners was – but a young straight couple had come for a quickie wedding. They were a little overwhelmed and tearful to find themselves with a minister, flowers, a photographer, and cake, paperwork handled, and off they went. I guarantee that when they woke up that morning, they did not expect a large bunch of mostly gay strangers to welcome them with open arms, give them a little wedding, and wish them well.
It was a week to celebrate marriage equality. You could marry the consenting adult of your choice. No one was there to ask why, or check religious or philosophical credentials, or question motives or identity.
Whether you were marrying for love or convenience, or you were a gay man marrying a straight woman or two bisexual women getting married, or you were straight and wearing crosses and camo or you had three grandkids in tow or you were two men each taking vows for the third time, no one cared. Maybe the small handful of protesters who showed up did, but they didn’t stay long.
The night before the Supreme Court was to hear oral arguments in the marriage equality cases before them, there was a Unite for Marriage vigil and rally. The weather was pretty nice and I’d guess there were about 100 people there. No protesters to be seen. Kids and adults, people I recognized from their wedding week pictures, local organizers and a few news cameras.
There was not the sense of excitement I was expecting to see and feel. Whether that’s because people think the outcome is inevitable or because they know it’s out of the hands of local activists (at least until we know if Alabama will obey the law, should the SCOTUS justices decide in favor of marriage equality) or because people are just tired, there wasn’t a sense of celebration. But people were there.
Including a group of three men who stood out to me because they were unexpected. They had biker bandannas, longish hair, old jeans, the kind of guys you’d expect to see riding for Patriot Guard or hanging out at the local gun show. In California, I wouldn’t have blinked at seeing them at a gay rights event. Here, they stood out. They had America’s Ready-Freedom to Marry signs, they were chatting with people, they were obviously there to be part of the crowd. I have no idea where they were on the Kinsey scale of the ideological spectrum. Don’t know if anyone else did.
But that wasn’t the point of the evening. It wasn’t to play, “I’m more activist than you.” or, “My gay is better than your gay.” or, “Your kind isn’t welcome here.” There was no litmus test to prove you could be part of the party.
Because when you get right down to it, it doesn’t matter if we’re gay or straight or bisexual or asexual or Christian or atheist or Jewish or Muslim or we wear tinfoil hats and howl at the moon or do all of the above.
We all need something to eat and a place to sleep. We all get bruised and cut and tired, and we all smile and laugh and think thoughts that we believe no one else has.
Why on earth people can’t get to that, to our common humanity, and wish for others the same things they want for themselves, why they would willfully deny that which does them no harm and allows others happiness and joy, I just can’t understand.
If a group of mostly gay people can gather in a park and offer wedding celebrations to any and all, even if those same smiling people would refuse to show them the smallest glimmer of humanity a week later, why can’t the love go both ways?