We dread campaign season. For the months leading up to an election, our ordinary lives are interrupted by waves of sadness and anxiety as we realize that, once again, the everyday securities of life afforded to others are-for us-being decided at the ballot box.
It is a very vulnerable feeling when our financial and legal peace of mind are up for popular vote. Call us picky, but these are rights we'd rather not place at the whim of the electorate. We do not wish to be used as pawns to embolden the ever-catered-to "values voters".
This May, North Carolina voters will decide whether or not to amend our state constitution to limit marriage to solely male-female couples. Gay marriage is already illegal in North Carolina, so the amendment is in many ways redundant and superfluous. However, the amendment will further restrict the rights of any unmarried couples- gay or straight- and create legal snafus, conundrums, and outright catastrophes surrounding important issues like child custody, hospital visitations, and estate settlements. Some consequences, such as dealing with the burden of drawing up cumbersome amounts of legal documentation, will be annoying and inconvenient. Other ramifications, like being denied the right to be with your ill or dying spouse at the hospital, are cripplingly heartbreaking and heartbreakingly crippling.
The inevitable finally happened. Today, on the way home from work, I saw my first "Vote Yes" yard sign in support of the amendment. On the sign were very predictable words: "Marriage. One Man. One Woman."
After my initial, visceral reaction of hurt and anger, I was struck by another thought: this definition of marriage is far too simplistic. To me, marriage is an experience, an active journey. Marriage is not a pair of nouns- the people in the relationship. Instead, it is a vast and varied collection of verbs- it is what the nouns in the marriage do that makes the marriage a success or failure.
While my definition of marriage certainly won't fit on a yard sign, I feel compelled to offer some sort of rebuttal to the people who put that sign up in the first place.
- not complaining about the hard day you had because you know your spouse's day was even harder
- arguing and then talking through points of contention
- never belittling one another
- seeing the same outfit for what feels like the 5,000 millionth time
- spending your day off taking your spouse's car in for an oil change
- going to funerals together and holding onto each other for dear life
- taking evening walks in comfortable silence
- remembering to go on dates every now and then
- feeling safe enough to share your lowest points and show your worst self
- wanting to greet your spouse with your best self every day
- excitedly waking up early to fix your spouse breakfast in bed
- having someone to curl up with on snow days
- facing medical scares together
- staying up late on a school night to talk excitedly about future plans
- paying bills and somehow making ends meet
- ditching the lingere and wearing mismatched pj's and socks to bed
- laughing till your cheeks hurt
- receiving a humbling amount of grace and forgiveness
- feeling the vulnerability of knowing how shattered your life would be without your spouse
- witnessing your spouse grow as an individual and being a source of encouragement for the journey
- tackling life's challenges with humor and tenacity
- being able to finish your spouse's sentences but letting your spouse speak for him/herself anyway
- splitting up household chores to knock them out quickly
- welling up with pride and gratitude as you think, "This amazing person chose ME."
- resting in the unconditional love of another
Perhaps, dear yard sign maker, I DO want to redefine marriage. Your definition just won't work for me. Marriage is far more expansive and infinitely deeper than the easy slogan of "one man and one woman". It is an adventure and a resting place, a challenge and a comfort. It is one of the most significant and powerful life experiences a person can have.
And my marriage is my business, not the business of voters.
Please spread the word and encourage any and all North Carolinians you know to vote NO in May. We would be exceedingly grateful for your support.