This Sunday, I'd like to do something ever so slightly less political than my usual. So let's talk about love for a minute.
And by love I don't mean the cutesy, button-nosed hypocoristic sort of public affection that so many choose to display who are often ignorant of its effects on random passers-by. No, I'm talking about genuine passion here. A depth of feeling that would make someone behave completely selflessly and irrationally, even if just to provide one small favor for the object of one's affection. There is nothing in the human experience that can possibly match the feeling of a newly kindled romance; the way your heart skips a beat when you see that special someone walk into the room you're in, or the way your whole essence just seems to get bathed in an invisible light just by the slightest touch. And you know you'd do anything just to stay in that moment forever.
There is, of course, a political reason I'm bringing this up (I guess I just can't help myself). The struggle for marriage equality and the fight for full and equal rights for the LGBT community has become one of my main political passions--and that fact inevitably leads to the assumption that I have a tangible stake in the outcome. And in at least one circumstance, the process of correcting certain mistaken assumptions has led to the question of why I would fight so hard to guarantee a right that I would never seek to take advantage of. The usual answers--a dedication to social justice, or the eagerness to participate in the next front of the civil rights movement--are all accurate, but are insufficient to fully explain the depths of this commitment. But love, on the other hand? That's a powerful thing indeed. And what makes it special is that it's entirely outside of our control.
Life might be simpler if our attractions were based on a structured mechanical checklist of qualities we desired in a partner--but it would certainly be far less eventful. The best part about love is that you don't get to choose it; rather, it chooses you. Among all the climbs and falls on the emotional roller coaster inspired by affection--the exhilarating peak arising from a new connection, right down to the long-tortured nadir of the unrequited--there is one that is perhaps most tragic of all: the socially forbidden.
Few things could possibly feel worse than when an authority figure in your life--whether a parent, a pastor, or a politician--tells you that the love you feel, that raging emotion that you couldn't control even if you wanted to, is shameful, or sinful, or in any other way not right or not fitting. Under those all too frequent circumstances, the pain is twofold: first, the pressure can often be enough to trigger the abandonment of a feeling that ought by rights to be rare and special; but even more importantly, it is designed to denigrate the values and the character of an individual for not conforming--involuntarily--to the set expectations of what those authority figures decided was right, just and moral.
While I don't wish to belabor my past, I know that pain all too well. The pain of desperately wanting to be with someone, and knowing that that someone desperately wants to be with you; and knowing that the highest authority figure in your life will do absolutely everything to destroy that happiness that you feel, even if it leaves you a distraught wreck in the process--just to make sure you conform on the outside, even if there's no way you can on the inside. Needless to say, it's not a nice feeling.
So what does this have to do with marriage? Plenty. It's very easy for all the haters out there (many of whom will eagerly tell you that God is Love, for what it's worth) to claim that they have no problem with gay relationships, just as long as the idea of marriage isn't included in the deal. But that's not enough. Marriage is more than a legal contract between two people. It's a government's way of saying that the desire that two people have to bind themselves to each other for life (supposedly!) is socially and morally acceptable.
And among all the pains I've felt, there's one I never have: that of loving someone, and knowing that no matter how much I loved her and she loved me, we would never be able to get married. I can't even imagine what that would be like. And that is why I fight--eagerly, desperately, and passionately--for a cause that, yes, ultimately provides me very little in the way of direct benefit.
I fight because I know love. Passion. Pain. And empathy. I fight because I know all too well what it's like to have someone be the first thing you think about when you wake up, to be the last thing you think about when you drift off to sleep, and to never be far from the top of your mind at any other time of day. And the last thing I would ever want is to know that my own government was telling me that I had no right to feel that.
Love is the best feeling in the world. Who needs a better reason?