All this talk of same-sex marriage got me to thinking about my standard response when the issue comes up in conversation, which is that I’ve been through it already. Naturally someone thinks I mean I’m gay or some such but then I explain that when my wife and I got engaged in 1963 our marriage was still illegal in Arizona and when they took the law off the books and we married in 1964 (not because of the law being removed we could have still got a license, but then we would always have been open to arrest as happened to the Lovings of Virginia), it was still illegal in 18 other states and we could have been arrested had we traveled there. So yeah, I know all about this. Oh, and the same people, waving their Bibles, were against us getting married then as the ones doing it now and against gays getting married.
But then I got to thinking further. Why was I so all-fired anxious to get married. After all, we went together for a year and then got engaged and went another year, so two years before we actually married. Admittedly, living together wasn’t done then, at least among reputable people. And that struck a spark: I didn’t mind being disreputable, but I didn’t want to confirm bigots’ notions that no White person would actually marry a Black woman. He might sleep with her, even live with her, but not marriage; that wasn’t for Blacks.
So I married her, proudly. Forty-nine years later, we are still married and that fact provokes amazement, not the interracial composition of the marriage. Isn’t that funny? Now people still try to separate us, for instance, in the grocery line they’ll get confused as to whose stuff is whose until we explain that they are together, that we are together. But previously, they try to separate us, assuming she and I had to go separate ways. But that was still better than simply refusing to serve her at all, something I was fortunate enough not to observe. Sometimes we didn’t get served, but it was done surreptitiously. And once in a while my wife has reported discrimination not only to me but to the people in charge of the institution or business and she has found that action is usually taken and the culprit is gone the next time she visits.
Still, I was thinking, what was the underlying motivation that caused me to want to protect her reputation, her social stability, her financial security, her standing in the law, and so forth? It dawned on me that it was because I love her. That’s why, pure and simple. To me, marriage said I loved her enough to marry her and I loved her enough to marry her in the face of social disapproval remember, at that time a lot of Blacks said I would never marry her and some were against interracial marriages themselves. I wanted to wipe the stupid grin off those people’s faces and force them to recognize us as a united couple in all circumstances and under law.
Such is the force of the law. And that is why gay couples want to marry it’s the law, it’s their reputation, and it’s their love. Ay, there’s the rub: many people just cannot believe two people of the same sex can love each other. And so many young people have now sat with a friend who is broken-hearted over the break-up of a gay romance that they know the love is as real as their heterosexual love. That’s all due to people “coming out” to their friends and family so that THEIR LOVE CANNOT BE DENIED.