Good things should come to all who wait
WHAT DECISIONS deserve a mandatory waiting period? You might mention gun purchases or abortion or renting "Waterboy." But I had to wait to get married.
It wasn't long, though. In New York State, the couple-to-be has to get a marriage license at City Hall at least 24 hours before the wedding. The officiant, couple and witnesses sign the license, someone sends it to City Hall and the couple get a marriage certificate back. Getting an apartment is more onerous.
I'm lucky. Narrowly speaking, I'm lucky because New York's waiting period is short; New Hampshire makes you wait three days. More broadly, I'm lucky because I live in 2006, so no one so much as blinks at my interracial and interfaith marriage where no one's changing his name or leaving her job.
In the Loving vs. Virginia decision of 1967, the Supreme Court struck down race-based legal restrictions on marriages across the United States. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote:
"Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications ... so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the state's citizens of liberty without due process of law. ... Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the state."
And so, about a month into my married life, I find myself wishing more often that I could extend all the privileges of marriage to my non-heterosexual friends. Their waiting period is their whole lives. I get so many big and little perks from being married that it's hard to count them all.
Almost all legal, social and religious institutions in our country and throughout the world recognize our commitment and consider us a family.
Friends, strangers, acquaintances, bureaucrats and coworkers just accept my marital status, no questions asked.
He and I can sleep in the same bed when we visit relatives.
My wedding ring fends off would-be suitors.
My parents are happy for me.
My presence at the funeral of my husband's relative excites no comment.
Everywhere I look in the mainstream media, I see role models who have made the same loving commitment I have made, with the same binding legal contract. It's the accepted foundation for long-term relationships, and discussions in books, magazines, movies, TV shows and newspapers assume that successful couples have taken that step, or want to.
As Matthew Baldwin of defectiveyeti
.com pointed out, marriage is an adult form of the buddy system; a lifelong buddy helps you stay on your path and not get lost in your job or hobbies or loneliness.
My partner and I don't have to fear that our landlord or neighbors will make our lives more difficult because they disapprove of our partnership.
We're married — end of discussion. No busybody plumber, babysitter, teacher, doctor, electrician, or soccer coach can blackmail us by exposing our relationship to prudes.
If we stumble in our relationship somehow, it isn't seized upon as proof that marriage can never work. And no one accuses us of trivializing marriage or attacking its sanctity, even when we don't follow certain wedding or marriage traditions.
And, of course, we get all the legal and financial benefits of a partnership that the government recognizes, in every state of the union.
No matter where he and I move, I'll get to visit him in the hospital. We can adopt and raise kids. He'll get first dibs on my stuff when I die.
We didn't complete any extra paperwork to get these perks; they were included in the marriage certificate. I had to wait just one day, and look at all I got.
Same-sex couples who want to marry have gone through a crucible greater than anything we demand of heterosexual couples. No shotgun or Vegas weddings here.
I say to those opponents of same-sex marriage: If you care about the stability and happiness of the American family, then work to subsidize daycare, lengthen paternal and maternal leave and move us to single-payer healthcare. If you care about the sanctity of marriage, then work to institute a federal waiting period and separate the civil contract of marriage from your religion's requirements and ceremonies. Widows, grandparents, uncles, nannies, foster children, step-parents and same-sex partners all contribute to and sustain households everywhere.
How decadent, how arrogant, how unloving, how wasteful we are to act as though we have enough loving partnerships and families! As though we can afford to spurn aspirants. How long should they wait?
Sumana Harihareswara writes for Bay Area Living each week. You can write to her at email@example.com.