Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On Equal Hearts and Broken Glass (Or, One Mississippi Bride-To-Be Reflects on Today)

Today. Because of today’s Supreme Court decisions, I am going to jump ahead to a topic I wasn’t going to address here just yet. But here we are, so here we go: equality, y’all.
Cake Topper Couple-Approved (Image from Reuters)

Today’s news from the Supreme Court is causing big reactions. In most of my personal circles (most, but not all) the reactions are overwhelmingly joyous, hopeful, relieved, proud. But even among those reacting joyfully, there is hesitation. A quick tempering of the joy. Because this not an end-all, be-all victory. It’s just one more step.

The SCOTUS blog provides  “in plain English” a good, succinct overview of what today’s rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8 (Prop 8) do and do not mean. Cracked puts together a pretty snarky overview, as well, for those who need it (incidentally, d’you see which state they give as the example of “you’re still outta luck?” Yeah, that’d be Mississippi).

I have always considered myself equality-minded, but over the years I have developed a more nuanced relationship with the equality movement, on all fronts. I believe equality means everyone, at the expense of no one. That whatever your ethnicity, orientation, identity, financial reality – by virtue of being a person, the baseline should be that people are equal.

We are so far from there.

I’ve been made hyper-aware of my own privilege – and while equality does not just mean marriage equality, let me tell you, thinking about my own upcoming marriage, not as a hypothetical but as an on-the-calendar-reality… that privilege has been highlighted, underlined, and exclamation-pointed in my mind lately. Something to think about, something to act on, something not to take for granted. A little over a year ago, I was thinking about the difference between hoping to get married vs. hoping to be legally permitted to do so, and pondering the inequality inherent in that difference.

So, it's probably not a surprise to anyone who knows me well that I’ve been thinking, already, about ways we can acknowledge equality at our wedding. The two of us making a contribution to an equality-focused charity in honor of our nuptials. Distributing white knots for equality on the big day. And something very personal, spiritually speaking: shattering some glass.
Caution: Breakable.
Breaking a glass is a traditional part of the Jewish wedding ceremony. It’s the one part everyone knows about – you break a glass and yell mazel tov, right? Right! But why do we break a glass? There are many explanations; most of them revolve around the idea that even on your most joyous day, you should take a moment to acknowledge that there is pain in the world. Whether it commemorates oppression, the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the fragility of life—or inequality. 

And that’s what I’ll be thinking about when the cup shatters on our wedding day: inequality. The pain that will exist until everyone has equal rights, including the legal right to marry the love of their life.

I know some straight folks who have vowed that they will not marry until all of their friends can, too. That is noble, and to be honest, I considered that choice. But in the end, I want the legal protections of marriage. I want them for myself, for my partner, and yes, for everyone – and I couldn’t see how refraining, myself, would help anyone. And I can see how raising my voice, as a married person, to say: “Our marriage is not threatened by marriage equality, it’s strengthened by it!” might even be helpful.

Because that’s what I believe. DOMA was never defending our future marriage, or anyone else’s – what it was doing instead was attacking the marriage rights of many.

It wasn’t defensive, on any level. It was offensive, on many.

Today’s news does not represent the end of a movement, but it does represent forward movement. A big, important step. And if you ask me, any step forward is worth celebrating; and while I still know that my partner and I are incredibly privileged to be planning the wedding we’re planning, I’m also feeling a little more optimistic today that soon that privilege will become a right for so many more people.

Talk about off season. This day is long overdue. So, with a little tempering of the joy but also a good dose of mazel tov, here's to dancing with each step forward, white knots, broken glasses, and hearts full of love.