Let us today put to rest this nonsense that words do not matter. Today we must claim as a community of moral-people that the word Marriage is available for all those that legally commit to their other. Words matter, we know they do -- and while they may not break bones, sometimes words can bend wills and unjustly break spirits.
Awkward conversations abound as I seek to explain my relationship with my 'partner', Dan. First, I'm often mistaken as a heterosexual. Thus, when I first declare that I have a partner, the next question is usually an inquiry as to our line of business. Sometimes, in jest I might offer as an answer that we are in the business of making babies. Yet, in business settings that is not a well-appreciated answer. The odd dialogue follows, we are lovers (which makes me squirm; you too?)
"Oh!" they say, "that's great!" I feel like the proverbial toddler that managed to take his first step. "Well, how long have you been together?" the conversation will inevitably continue. "Wow, that long! -- are you registered?" they'll next ask.
No, we are not registered domestic partners. Have you ever heard of a phrase so devoid of poetry, a phrase empty of the love, the passion and of the dedication I have for that man of mine. People register for the draft (euphemistically now called "selective service"), for wedding gifts, and to vote -- activities not at all analogous to love.
Inevitably, that status inquiry is quickly followed by, "well, if you are committed to each other, why don't you register?" This predicates only two answers. First, is the challenge -- you are not dedicated enough to make that marriage-like commitment to one another and society. That is certainly not the case for us. Then, the only other option is that I'm a radical liberal awaiting equality. Ding Ding Ding, you win.
If the moral argument for equal marriage rights is not persuasive, then think of it this way: allowing gays to marry will lead to savings of time for so many of us that labor to explain our commitment to each other. This cost savings when aggregated over the life of gay couples will doubtless lead to massive increase in productivity, thus increasing GDP.
Failing the moral argument or the fiscal argument, think of it in terms of a movie you are watching. The camera zooms in on two men walking at dusk. The two have just had a romantic evening dinner, followed by ice-cream. They meander home quietly, each lost in feelings and thoughts of love for one another. One falls to his knee, looks up in the face of his would-be life mate and asks, "Dan, (pregnant pause, gulp) Will you register with me?" Awkward moment, as Dan looks down at David and is confused. David realizing that his proposal had all the romance of a grandmother's ancient papery kiss at a family reunion, tries again. David rethinks quickly, "Dan, love of my life, will you domestically partner me?" Dan looks down, and David realizes no, that's not quite right either is it.
Words matter. Marriage means something, even if it's just a word. I don't want to sit in the middle of the bus, but anywhere I chose. If that makes me a radical liberal, so be it. Truly though, I believe it denigrates us all as people to suggest that one who loves so hard, so fully, and so truly must name that love anything other than marriage.
Out of necessity Dan and I may register as domestic partners. The nation lurches forward towards full equality for gays and lesbians in this year of hope and change. Yet, that process is slow, and on our one trip around this sun together, I cannot risk not enshrining our relationship in the warm embrace of partial legal rights afforded by domestic partnerships. After all, my love for him means I'll sacrifice my ego and political indignity at being part of a second-class institution, to ensure that we are protected legally; and that our relationship is encrusted with some sense of legal prophylactics against the persistent homophobic attack on the sanctity of our relationship. What choice do I have? Daniel, forgive the lack of poetry... but, will you domestically partner me?