Celebrating a Momentous Decision: The Supreme Court and the Sanctity of Gay Marriage

As I watched the news last night – the announcement that the Supreme Court of our land had ruled that it is contrary to our Constitution to  limit the right of anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, to marry and upholding the rights of gay and lesbian spouses to equal rights under the law – I knew that this was a momentous moment and that, as a relationship therapist, I should add my voice to those who are celebrating this decision.

And yet I struggle with what to say that isn’t facile and superficial. Yes, this is a watershed political moment.  We as a people entrust nine human beings to define for us the essence of what it means to live under our Constitution.  We are a nation of laws and through our presidents we choose nine people to hold the wisdom for all of us that defines the limits and parameters of the law. The validation of gay marriage by the court is I hope the dismantling of the last barrier to the rights of all Americans to freely marry the one they love and to be entitled to all the rights and liberties entailed in such a union.

The voice that I would add to this conversation is that which derives from my role as relationship, couples and yes marriage therapist.  What does it mean to get married and why does it matter?  When my husband Steve and I got married it was a second marriage for both of us and many people asked us why we were doing so.  We already had children, we were financially independent.  Why not just live together without all the “complications” that marriage entails?  Weren’t we afraid to get “burned” a second time?

The answer for me to the question of why marriage matters lies in the two words of commitment and witness.  In choosing to marry we are saying so much more than I love you and want to live with you and spend my life with you.  We are saying I commit to you.  I commit to take care of you and to care for you.  I commit to support you: emotionally, physically, financially.  I commit to share with you: my joys, my fears, my resources, my people, my dreams, my life.  And I commit to being the best person I can be with you – to love and be loving, even when I am tired and sick and grumpy and angry.  Even when you aren’t being the best person you can be, I commit to love you for all of who you are.

What marriage does, what the act of getting married entails, is that we make this commitment in front of witnesses.  We ask our family, our friends, my community, and yes, our God, to witness that Iam making this commitment to you.  In so doing we create a sacred circle of awareness and support, we invoke a powerful energy that holds us as we take this amazing journey together.  We ask those we love and respect to witness our commitment, to support us as we struggle to keep our responsibilities and to be the best we can be, and to hold us to our vision when we stumble.  In so doing, our private connection and commitment become part of a greater thread of public responsibility and faith in the power of love to transform the world.

To close I share two quotes from a sweet little book I bought when planning my own weeding:  “I Marry you Because…” by Peter McWlliams:

“In the consciousness of belonging together, in the sense of constancy, resides the sanctity, the beauty of matrimony, which helps us to endure pain more easily, to enjoy happiness doubly, and to give rise to the fullest and finest develoment of our nature.”  Fanny Lewald

and from the incomparable Betty Friedan, “A marriage between mature people is not an escape but a commitment shared by two people that becomes part of their commitment to themselves and society.”

With Joy I celebrate this brave new day.

Posted by Laura

Laura Marshall, LCSW, is the founder and director of the Sagebrush Center for Relationship Therapy. Her experience spans thirty years of supporting couples and individuals to create healthy and meaningful lives and relationships. She is also adjunct faculty for the New Mexico Highlands School of Social Work. She lives with her husband Steve and five sons in Farmington, New Mexico.

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