When the word "marriage" is mentioned, what comes to mind?
Love, fidelity, family, partnership, commitment, monogamy?
Or maybe something more poetic: in sickness and in health, till death do us part, growing old together, the joining of two into one, a holy union?
Personally, I'm fond of calling my husband "my dearly beloved."
These are great ideas, and I would like to think they describe my own marriage. But the reality is that none of them are necessary.
I think everyone has met a married couple who can't stand the sight of one another, much less love each other. It is estimated that about 50 percent of women and 60 percent of men have cheated on their spouses, so fidelity isn't required. Married people break all kinds of commitments to each other all the time. As for monogamy, there are lots of couples who don't need or expect this from their marriage and are happy with that. People who are atheist and agnostic get married all the time with no mention of religion, so it isn't needed, either. And the divorce rate in this country throws the whole "till death do us part" thing right out the window.
And yet, all of these couples can be married, as long as one of the partners is male and the other female.
In this country, in most states, the only thing that's really necessary is for one man and one woman to sign some legal papers in front of someone official. And voilà! They are married. It doesn't matter if they got married to get insurance benefits, to have the right-looking person on their arm, or because it was simply expected of them. No one checks up on every marriage to see if it is a "real marriage" (whatever that is). People don't have to have children or even live together. They are married because they wanted to be and signed a legal document that says so.
Charles and Drew should be married. But they aren't. Because they have the big disqualifier: they are two men.
Charles and Drew have the kind of courtship story anyone would be proud to tell their kids (unlike me and my husband Dave; our boys aren't allowed to know the real story until they are least 30... maybe 35). They started slowly: dinner and conversation; walks on the beach and conversation; games with friends and still more conversation. For quite a while, when one slept over at the other's place, he was relegated to couch. From the beginning they knew that what they had was special and made the decision to take their time and let it grow. And grow it has for the past seven years.
Now they have a home together and a committed partnership. They talk about a future that may one day include children. And it only takes about three minutes in their company to see that they are absolutely and completely in love. But they can't be married, and it bothers them -- so much so that a few years ago Charles went to court to have his last name changed to Drew's. When he was asked by the judge why he wanted to change his name, Charles simply responded, "Because I can't marry my partner." They were relieved when the judge only nodded and signed on the dotted line.
Some people might look at Drew and Charles and find nothing remarkable, nothing special. They are gamers, like sci-fi, keep up on politics. They get together with their friends for Iron Chef battles. Drew takes beautiful photographs, and Charles considers himself the "social coordinator" of their little family. I think they are simply wonderful and charming. They are the kind of guys we'd like to have in our neighborhood so that we could meet up for dinner, swap dry, sarcastic jokes, and waste time talking about Battlestar Galactica.
Drew and Charles aren't out to hurt anyone else's marriage. They simply want their own.
People who don't believe in equal marriage like to talk about what a "sacred" thing marriage is. Well, it can be. But in a society filled with marriages that only last days before divorce and people getting married to simply no longer be alone, I think it is high time we admitted that marriage is only as sacred as we make it. Couples like Charles and Drew would only contribute to that, not take anything away. And it is long past time for them to have the opportunity.