What Marriage Equality Means to Me

Matt and Scott
Scott and I in Iceland

Today the Supreme Court of the United States handed down what I consider to be a landmark ruling on gay rights. In a 5-4 decision, the Justices struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act that prevented the Federal government from extending the same rights to LGBT married couples as enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. This affects everyone who lives in a state where LGBT marriage is legal, and in states that will extend this right in the future. That means that tax breaks, pension benefits and more than 1,000 other benefits recognized under Federal Law will be extended. The Court also refused to rule on a lower court ruling regarding Proposition 8 in California, a decision that will allow LGBT marriages in California to continue.

While some may say that the Court did not go far enough, I feel that these decisions are momentous and my first, unbridled reaction was tears. Tears of what exactly I can’t say, but the swell of emotion was extreme.

Like many gay people, especially of a certain age, growing up gay wasn’t easy. Repression, self-loathing and social ostracism are all part of the fun for gay adolescents, and it absolutely shaped the person I am today. Even though I’ve been with my partner for 11 years, there is still a part of me that’s cautious about which pronouns I use with strangers, the terminology I utilize and of course how we interact in public. Most of this probably isn’t necessary, but it’s all part of that fear with which I grew up.

Upon hearing the news this morning I cried a deep and soulful cry, the kind that comes from the bottom of your heart. I felt lighter, I felt better as a lot of that fear was shed off almost instantly. I didn’t even know I had something that needed discarding, not until it sloughed off like a discarded blanket. It may sound silly, but to have so many people and now my government telling me that I am worthy of the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals is extraordinary.

My partner and I aren’t married, although we could be. We live in a state that legalized it and should we choose to get married, the Federal government would now have to recognize us. A year ago when returning home from vacation, we approached the immigration officer at Dulles International Airport together, like married couples are allowed to do. Even after explaining ourselves I was told, very rudely, to get back in line until they were done with my partner. It’s a thousand acts of subtle digs that will now disappear that make this decision so important. It makes me feel freer and absolutely happier.

There is still a lot of work to do of course. Many states do not recognize gay marriage, and that needs to change. But in a country where 13 of the states (plus Washington, DC) DO recognize it, where the military recognizes it and now the Federal government recognizes it, these states don’t stand a chance. All they’re doing is putting off the inevitable as our long, painful struggle for simple recognition as human beings is realized.

So yes, I am happy. I’m thrilled actually, but mindful of the fact that many have made great sacrifices in order for this day to become a reality and that is something I hope none of us ever take for granted.

Now, who wants to buy me wedding presents?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

16 thoughts on “What Marriage Equality Means to Me”

  1. I’m happy for you guys, and the whole community, but there is still much work left to be done. Certainly a step in the right direction.

  2. Hi Matt! I feel so happy for you Americans. You couldn’t express your feelings better (as usual, by the way). I also cried and got emotioned when equal marriage was legalized here in Spain. I was expectant watching political forces vote…so I understand what you mean, my partner and I got married 7 years ago, but we’ve been together for 13 years. Now we feel we finally live in a civilized country even though still there are people who don’t like it (catholic church and the like). But the law is on our side. Kisses and hugs and congratulations again!

  3. A step in the right direction, that’s for sure! As a Brit and western European, I can safely say that the USA regularly baffles us with discriminatory legislation on LGBT and women’s rights. I can’t see gay marriage being passed in some of the super red states within the next decade (North Dakota, Arkansas, I’m looking at you) but they’ll soon be few and far between.

    1. Rachel Maddow did a segment on this on her show last night, about now some gay couple who was leagally married in a state where its allowed moves to Utah (the example she used as team HRC was heading there today) where their marriage isn’t recognized so they sue. If there’s one thing Kennedy’s opinion in the DOMA case yesterday was present a bit of a path towards more litigation on the matter.

      But Matt, I’m with you. I too found myself tearing up as I was watching the decision being announced on TV yesterday morning. I was lucky on many accounts, with a very supportive family and, since I was into theatre and even went to a performing arts high school, a very supportive community around me. Still though, gay teens face immesne challenges (and Middle School for me was quite the nightmare). It just amazes me though to see how far we’ve come! Onward and upwards because the fight is far from over!

  4. I was on Twitter when I saw the news about DOMA and it made me very happy for everyone in America – and I say this as a heterosexual Canadian. Speaking from my own experience legalizing gay marriage in Canada did not cause the institution of marriage in my country to crumble. It has not lead to the downfall of society, the way some people who are against gay marriage seemed to think it would. In fact legalizing gay marriage in Canada hasn’t changed anything in my life, but I know it has changed the lives of thousands of LGBT people who only want the same rights that straight couples have. Hopefully this ruling against DOMA is just the start for gay rights and equality for everyone in the US.

  5. I’m so happy for you! I expect an invitation to your wedding. ;)

    Would a year-long supply of Pag cheese be an acceptable wedding gift?

  6. “I’m thrilled actually, but mindful of the fact that many have made great sacrifices in order for this day to become a reality and that is something I hope none of us ever take for granted.”

    Actually, I hope it is taken for granted…eventually. Not yet, no, but in 50 years time, the right of two people of the same gender to get married should be just as unremarkable as the right of two people of different ethnicities to get married is now, but this was not the case 50 years ago.

    I’m not a US citizen, but I too was very happy to hear this news. It’s interesting how, despite several other countries having full marriage equality (and others still getting it very recently; Uruguay, France), the world looks expectantly to the United States whenever progress is made in this area, even though it’s still relatively backward, by some standards.

    Anyway, hooray!

  7. I can’t believe you couldn’t approach the immigration desk together. Such a little thing, but then not really! It’s great to see America making progress on this issue – I only wish Australia would get its act together too.

  8. We spend so much energy trying to think who knows and who doesn’t, who cares and who doesn’t that it makes life difficult beyond the difficulties that heterosexuals also have. It wasn’t that long ago that I came to the conclusion that I was not going to do that any more, and I tell it like it is. If I stumble on others’ sensitivities – well that’s more their problem than mine. You know the line from La Cage? My life’s not worth a damn til I can shout out – I am what I am”.

    Will you marry?


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