There my fiancée Lori and I were, feeling blessed and relaxed, watching the sun set into the ocean at my beautiful hometown in Brazil, after having exchanged engagement rings and promised to each other that we would spend the rest of our lives together. But suddenly a wave of fear and anxiety washed over me. I couldn't help but question whether we were ready to face the formidable odds ahead of us. Should we have taken more time to consider how we would respond to the criticism of some family members, colleagues and even strangers who still believe that two people of the same sex should not have the right to get married? Maybe we should have waited to share our cherished dreams of having a big wedding, as well as our desire to have children, with folks who might not be so thrilled about our commitment.
Why was I so petrified by the possibility of getting married instead of savoring that unforgettable moment with Lori? I had finally found my soulmate, a sweet, loving partner with similar values, dreams and dance moves! We were both professionally and emotionally stable. We had been in a monogamous, committed relationship for four years and truly wanted to celebrate our special day with beloved friends and our families. We were already saving to buy a home where we could plant our garden and raise our kids, in addition to all the cheesy clichés that come with dreaming up a shared future with someone you adore. We had even already started researching all options for starting a family. What was wrong with me?
After sharing my concerns with my bride-to-be, we worked hard to unpack what was coming up for me. It turns out that although I've always identified as bisexual or queer, the loss of my heterosexual privilege before the law had prevented me from fully embracing this exciting new phase of my life. If I were not already a permanent resident, for instance, I would be in danger of being forced into exile, away from my new family, because legally, Lori would not be able to sponsor me for citizenship. I was also terrified by the idea that our unborn children might not be protected (or even recognized as our own) depending on which state line we crossed or which country we chose to live in, not to mention the other 1,000 federal benefits that are tied to this state-sanctioned institution, which we would not be granted, thanks to DOMA.
My fiancée and I were now embarking on a series of late-night conversations that revolved more around dull legal briefings than exciting wedding plans. Should we marry in New York, have a civil union in New Jersey or become domestic partners in California? Should we adopt a child or use assistive reproductive technology? Would my dual citizenship be transferable to our kids? And where are the inclusive schools and welcoming congregations? Which employers offer health care benefits for same-sex families? How would we get our families to understand how complicated it is to form, nurture and protect this new family that we were already creating?
Six months later I have finally worked through my initial apprehension about the possibility of being discriminated against as an LGBTQ family. Let me be clear: I still don't think that marriage is a magic bullet that will solve all the issues that our community , or any community, faces. We all know that it does not provide full equality, grant universal health care or create visibility for the diverse types of families that the majority of people (straight or not) have in this country. In fact, we think that the right to marry is a poor solution for the problems that most LGBTQ people face, such as harassment, violence, isolation, homelessness and more. Both legally and socially, though, I am committed to the radical idea that all people should be treated equally under the law and should be able to publicly celebrate their love and commitment if they wish to do so.
After all these realizations, my fiancée and I can now enjoy our wedding-planning experience and joyfully prepare ourselves to become new parents. At the same time we continue working to keep ourselves informed and our hearts open to help move our friends, families and leaders along their journey toward support for all families.
And as we do our part to help others embrace love over fear, we pray that our allies will also move their own communities to see that we all have a role to play in this in moving us further along the road to equality, for as the civil rights leader (and gay man) Bayard Rustin so eloquently put it, "We are all one. And if we don't know it, we will learn it the hard way."