July 24 marks the one year anniversary of my marriage. My gay marriage. It's crazy to think that it's already been a year since the historic day when my husband and I, and over 800 other LGBT couples said, "I do" here in the State of New York.
Growing up, I had always wanted to be in a loving, long-term relationship, but never really thought I would get married. Maybe because when I was younger, a law legalizing gay marriage seemed as probable as me riding through my hometown on the back of a unicorn, or possibly because my parents divorced when I was five, or perhaps because I didn't go from spending my school hours being told I was going to burn in Hell, to whiling away my evening hours singing to the dress making mice in my room and dreaming about my fairytale wedding day. Whatever the reasoning behind it, let's just say marriage wasn't on my vision board.
That all changed when I met the man whom I now call my husband. Before him, I had gone through a handful (a rather large hand, mind you) of unsuccessful courtships. I had this adorable little gift of suffocating the guys I was seeing. They thought we were just boyfriends, however, unbeknownst to them, they had unwittingly signed on to be the person to save me from every last horrible thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life. You know... casual dating.
After much thoughtful soul searching, I began to realize I had gravitated toward men who spoke more to the wounds of my heart, than the whole of my heart. If I wanted to change my pattern of failed relationships, it was time for me to rewire my thought process around love.
From our very first date together, it was clear, my soon to be beau was very different. I had finally met someone who was not just boyfriend material - he was husband material. Shortly after meeting, I remember saying to God, "I don't know where you want this relationship to go, but to the journey, I say, 'yes.'" It was very Liza Minnelli of me, and a very true story.
Though we are approaching our one-year wedding anniversary, we have been together as a couple for over seven years. It hasn't always been sunshine and Santa Claus. Early on, it became clear I had brought some hefty baggage into the relationship. After every disagreement, not matter how minute, my fight and flight instincts would kick into overdrive and inevitably, I would start plotting my elaborate exit strategy like I was Julia Roberts in Sleeping With the Enemy.
As time went on, and our bond grew stronger, the love I was able to give and to receive helped heal my emotional wounds and opened my heart up to a level of love I was unfamiliar with. I no longer needed someone outside of myself to make me whole, therefore releasing the stranglehold on my partner to complete me. I no longer felt the need to run screaming for the hills every time there was a bump in the road, but could stand still in times that were difficult and uncomfortable. I realized if I wanted an adult relationship, I had to be present, do the work and act like an adult.
I think of my grandparents who were married 68 years. During their life together, they had experienced some wonderful blessings including: two kids, seven grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. That's not to say they didn't also know immense suffering: The Great Depression, World War II, health problems and the unfathomable loss of their son to Multiple Sclerosis.
One of the most profound moments of my life was being with my Nana when my grandfather died. I stood there in the hospital room with the two of them during his final moments on earth and watched as this 91-year-old woman held onto her husband of almost seven decades, kissed him and said, "goodbye." It was a heartbreaking yet beautiful example of love and devotion.
Two weeks before our wedding day, my husband's younger brother tragically passed away. We went from planning a wedding, to planning a funeral. I flew to rural Pennsylvania to be at my (then) fiancé's side, and sat with his sister, mother and father as they made arrangements for the burial. I remember thinking, "what am I doing here? This is a family matter." When the funeral director asked who I was, with out hesitation, my fiancé's mother said, "He's my son-in law. He's family."
What a gift to be able to go through all the grit and the glory with another human being by your side. What a powerful act of love it is to stand up and say to someone, "I do". "I do" choose to share my life with you. "I do" choose to respect you, to work as hard as I can to be the best husband I can be. "I do" choose to be with you through sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, till death do us part.
I know marriage is not for everyone. I didn't used to think it was for me, however, being married has enabled me to piece together the wonderful lessons of love I have learned along my journey in ways that did not make sense to me when I was younger.
Although I am a strong individual, I have become a more evolved person through our experiences together as a couple.
We made the commitment to go to couples therapy to learn to communicate better. We adopted dogs together. He decided to go to law school. We pinched pennies and sacrificed, but we financially put him through law school. We got engaged. He helped me through my times of unemployment. He stood backstage with roses in his hand and tears in his eyes after the opening night of my first Broadway show. I answered that horrific phone call from him screaming after he'd been mugged, and ran to find him lying beaten and bloody on the street. We celebrated his law school graduation and his law clerkships. He held me when my 3-year-old nephew was diagnosed with Leukemia. He helped my mother during my grandfather's funeral. I helped his mother pick out her sons casket. I held his hand as they put his younger brother in the ground. We placed rings on each other's fingers and said, "I do" in front of our family, our state and God. To me, this is what marriage is all about.
I look at what we have been through together and I stand humbled, grateful and proud. It is with this sense of pride that I challenge Conservatives who believe they have sole ownership over the word "marriage." I too have ownership. That word now belongs to me, my husband and every other LGBT person who chooses to be married in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, Maryland, the District of Columbia and hopefully many more states to follow.
One year ago, on a beautiful, hot summer New York City day, I looked around and saw hundreds of couples coming together to celebrate love, commitment and equality at City Hall. I understood in that moment, more than I ever had before, how important legalized marriage is for me and other LGBT people. My friends, family, community and government now know what my husband and I have always known: that the love and commitment we have is from God. And what He gave us is divine.