Promises to Keep

By Callen Harty

Brian watching a sunset at Brockway Mountain, Michigan.
Photo by Callen Harty.

I do not need marriage to prove my love.  It is, already, life-lasting.  It is, already, eternal.

For almost 21 years now my life partner, Brian, and I have shared our love without the sanctity of marriage.  We promised each other years ago that we would wait until the promise of equality was realized in our home state of Wisconsin.  We would like to be able to make a public declaration of our love and share that with our friends and family as others do every day without having to think about it.  We would like to no longer be considered second class citizens in the land we love.  We have waited patiently for that to happen.  Instead our neighbors enshrined a ban on recognizing our love into the Constitution.

We have waited patiently for the nation to mature into an understanding that our love is no less than that of a man and woman.  We have waited for political leaders to lead, to be courageous in taking a moral stand.  We have waited, and we have continued to grow in love while we waited.

Meanwhile, we have seen friends and relatives marry and divorce.  We have watched movie and television stars meet and marry within weeks and divorce in weeks more.  We have heard conservative radio commentators who have been married multiple times preach about the sanctity of marriage.  We have seen the divorce rate in this country rise to well over 50%.  My patience with the hypocrisy is wearing thin.  My love for Brian is growing stronger.

I do not need marriage to validate my love.  But I do need the opportunity of marriage to know that I am a full member of a society where we are all supposed to be created equal.  Just as I never had a desire to join the military, but felt it important that I be afforded the opportunity, so too, do I need marriage equality (and full equality in every way) to know that I am a fully accepted member of this society.

Like President Obama, my position on marriage equality has evolved.  Years ago, when I was newly out and when, as a gay man, I had virtually no rights at all–before Wisconsin passed the nation’s first gay rights law in 1982–I would tell people that all I wanted was to find someone to love and with whom I could spend my life.  The thought of marriage was not even a possibility back then, and I honestly wasn’t sure that finding someone to love was all that possible either.  But I was willing to settle.  I was willing to take less.  No more.  I no longer hope for marriage equality in this country–I demand it!

I demand full participation in the daily life of this country.  I demand acceptance–not tolerance–acceptance.  I demand the opportunity to join hands in love in a way that is not similar to marriage, but is marriage.  Anything less is no longer acceptable.

I am thankful that the President finally spoke out on the issue, but words are useless without action.  Now the action needs to follow.  And while we wait for that action, while we continue to wait, as we have for years, our love will continue to grow, as it has for years.  It is a deep river overflowing its banks, and it will not be contained any longer.

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