Much has been written about the decision of a bare majority of Supreme Court justices to declare the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. The federal government must now treat same-sex marriages as equal in all ways to heterosexual marriages. California’s ban of gay marriage has been overturned. These are momentous decisions, unthinkable not long ago. There is much to say about shifting public opinion, partisan politics, and the evolving meaning of equal rights.
But I have been thinking about love. The couples who brought the case to the Supreme Court made courageous decisions about trying to gain equality of rights through a protracted legal process. The word “love” is never mentioned in the decision to overturn DOMA. Yet their journey began with falling in love. Love for each other sustained them when their unions were not recognized by law. Edie Windsor and Thea Clara Spyer were together for 42 years before Spyer died in 2009. The couples who contested California’s Proposition 8, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and Jeff Katami and Paul Zarrillo, have been together for over 15 years. Love brought them to get marriage licenses as soon as the Supreme Court decisions were announced. They have now proclaimed their love in formal ceremonies, presided over by California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, respectively.
Homosexual love is not for me. Since I was much too young to have any moral judgment or make any life decisions, I was attracted to girls. I made no reasoned choices about love or sex – I just felt things when I saw the girl I had a crush on in second grade or the different girl I swooned over in the seventh grade. I looked at photographs of beautiful women with great interest, and never connected the word “beauty” with men.
I also never felt the love of a boy for his sister, because I don’t have sisters, but I believe in that form of love. I have no personal experience with the worshipful love for an older sibling. That is also my understanding of homosexual love: I don’t have to experience every type of love to know that love is the most wonderful feeling one can have. I know that the love between two adults can bring daily joy to ordinary life.
Our society frowns on some kinds of love. Love for someone else’s spouse can spread profound unhappiness. Sexual love for children can destroy their lives. Lust for bodies can be confused with love for minds and souls.
But society also disdained types of love which only harmed rigid ideologies. Homosexual love, like interracial love, was once a love that in our culture could not speak its name. False prejudices bolstered by selective biblical quotations proclaimed that homosexuality was immoral, the same cultural process that declared black inferior to white and slavery morally justifiable.
The truth is that same-sex couples who have discovered love act on the most profound human emotion and want only to share the greatest gift we can bestow. Their love has persevered through hatred and discrimination and lies, not because it is rational, but because it cannot be stopped by law or politics. I don’t have to participate in it or even understand it. I just have to see its glow to know that it is good.
I don’t feel homosexual love, but I love some homosexuals, in my family, among my colleagues and friends. Now the law can support that love, instead of condemning it. Love is the law.
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, July 2, 2013