You laughed today when I mentioned same-sex marriage in class. It made me feel very sad, but I’m not angry at you. You probably don’t know what it’s like to be teased for who you are and who you love. You are just beginning to learn about how to be in relationships that go deeper than just someone you play with at recess. Maybe you think that same-sex marriage is about sex, which is normal to giggle about in middle school. Let me assure you — same-sex marriage is not a dirty word.
Same-sex marriage means some men want to marry other men. Some women want to marry other women. They love each other and want to be legally considered family. Strangely, the government gets to decide if that’s allowed. As we discussed in class, right now there’s no amendment in the Constitution which says anything about who can get married and who can’t. This means that each state gets to decide whether or not to let men marry men or women marry women. This is a hot topic these days in the news. Only 6 states in America allow same-sex marriage. Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, but gay couples who get married here still can’t get the federal benefits of marriage. For example, an Argentinian man can’t get U.S. citizenship if his husband is American. However, back in Argentina, his marriage would be fully recognized. A handful of other countries, from South Africa to Iceland, also allow same-sex marriage. Perhaps some day, there will be a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution to redefine marriage, but right now neither Obama or Romney is fully in support of this change.
Normally, I don’t like to share my personal political views in the classroom. If you ask me who I am voting for in November, I will politely refuse to answer. I want all of you to feel comfortable sharing your views in class, and I don’t want to tell you what to believe. My job is to give you tools to make your own decisions.
I will, however, proudly announce that I support same-sex marriage. To me, this is not a political issue, but it’s about respecting all people and giving everyone the same rights. Some of your parents might disagree, but that’s because we live in a complicated world. Sometimes good people disagree and need to find ways to work together on things that they agree on. Even if your parents disagree with my views, I bet we both want you to grow up to be strong, thoughtful adults, and we can work together to be there for you as you grow up.
Last weekend, I went to my first same-sex wedding. It was beautiful. The couple were two women, Mary and Jan (ages 71 and 83). They’ve been together for more than 20 years, and they love each other very much. They live in a state where same-sex marriage is not legal. They tried fighting the government and they tried to explain to officials why they wanted to marry. They were still not given a marriage license.
They came to Massachusetts and got married in a church, with a small ceremony and reception. Many ministers helped marry them, because they wanted to show that there are people out there who believe that God approves of all types of love. Many strangers came to the wedding to support them in their marriage, because Mary and Jan weren’t able to bring their families or friends. It was touching to be a witness to their love. I took a little video that I’d like to share with you:
I felt honored to share this special moment with Mary and Jan. For me, it’s inspirational to see two people who have fought so hard for love. For some of you, it might be weird or uncomfortable to see a marriage of two women, but that’s ok. When you grow up, you can marry whomever you want to marry, and you can have whatever kind of family you want to have. You don’t need to want what they want. You do need to be respectful of everyone in our community, and whether you know it or not, some people you know are gay. I challenge you to put yourself in their shoes. I challenge you to work on finding something you can love about everyone, even if they seem different. I challenge you to stand up for those who get teased for just being themselves. If you do love people of the same sex, I want you to know that I respect you for who you are.
Let’s work together to make sure that everyone can love and be loved. Our world will be better because of it.