Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. We were driving back from a quick pre-Christmas vacation in Arizona, where we had failed to perceive any of the healing vibrations supposedly present in Sedona, were properly impressed seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, and didn’t buy the time-share. And hadn’t been paying any attention to any news from anywhere.
Somewhere in southern Utah, we stopped for gas and beef jerky. Stomping through the dirty, slushy snow in the convenience store parking lot, we came across a Salt Lake Tribune vending rack. The front page said, “Judge: Gay marriages legal.”
I had not seen that coming.
By the time we got back to Salt Lake City, we had basically missed the party. The rush on the courthouse for same-sex couples to get legally married in Utah — quick, before the state appeals and the window is closed — was dying down. The news was about state officials uttering phrases of defiance that they would probably not like to be reminded of today, local officials scurrying to the county office building to do, and be seen doing, whatever they could to help same-sex couples get married while they could, and some inside baseball about how folks at the Utah Attorney General’s Office had been so blindsided by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby’s ruling that they forgot to seek a stay of the order pending appeal.
And lots of pictures of Mayor Ralph Becker in a red sweater vest presiding at the impromptu ceremonies of many happy couples.
The Utah ruling, the first such order by any federal court, was stayed on appeal 17 days later, and the whole nation waited for a year and a half for the U.S. Supreme Court to have its final word. When it did, in June 2015, marriage equality became the law of the land, once and for all.
What seems remarkable now is that, even with all the “Fifth anniversary of …” articles that have run in The Tribune and elsewhere over the past several days, there is not any particular reason why I should remember any of this. No reason why this should be a “Do you remember where you were when you heard?” moment, at least not for a strictly hetero dude who has been straight-married for a long time.
The coming of marriage equality to Utah, and then to the whole nation, was clearly a boon for a great many people, couples, families. But it affected my personal and family life not one bit.
Which is, of course, the whole point.
As expressed by the modern oracle of the masses — i.e., clever T-shirts — “Equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you. It’s not pie.”
The reason recognition of marriage equality in the United States, and throughout the civilized world, was finally an idea whose time had come was that, like other moments of expanded equality over the centuries, it was based on the not-so-sudden realization that those who benefit benefit a whole hell of a lot while everyone else loses absolutely nothing. Except the ability to have the law on your side while looking down your nose at people who are different from you.
Overwrought and formally made predictions of society-wide breakdowns of law and order, of families suddenly rent asunder, of children suffering existential self-doubt because they grew up with two moms or two dads, of human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!
In reality, for those not directly affected, bupkis.
Well, other than the pleasure of living in a state and a nation that are no longer going out of their way to deny the joys, privileges — and woes — of legal matrimony to a subset of the population out of nothing more than centuries of churlish habit.
It is true that only five years of fully recognized marriage equality cannot have provided enough data to conclude that growing up in a same-sex-led household is or is not good for children. But it is also true, as Justice Anthony Kennedy took pains to note in his ruling, that the larger society already has a great many children growing up in exactly that circumstance. That our free society has already moved beyond the law, as free societies do. And that laws telling those families that they are somehow inferior serve no purpose other than to be hurtful.
What we should see is that the only time another person’s sexual orientation, status, self-image, expression, transition, presentation, martial status (is that everything?) matters to you is if you really want to have sex with that person. If you don’t — or, just as important, they don’t — it is none of your damn fool business. Or the state’s.
Merry Christmas. To everyone.