It's February: Time for Love, Marriage And Equality

By Michelle E. Brown

It's February; love's in the air, and apparently everyone is high on the Valentine's Day Kool-Aid.

You expect to be inundated with love stories, engagements and wedding photos but did you ever think you would see so many LGBTQ engagements and weddings?

I mean it's not just in traditional media but on social media and in local media as well.

Ellen DeGeneres/Portia de Rossi, Elton John/David Furnish, Cynthia Nixon/Christine Marinoni, George Takei/Brad Altman, Neil Patrick Harris/David Burtka, Rosie O'Donnell/Michelle Rounds and Jim Nabors/Stan Callawader are just a few of the celebrity couples whose nuptials have made headlines.

And these unions are being reported not as assaults on the "sanctity of marriage" but as a reason to celebrate far and wide.

With Maryland and Maine joining Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Washington and the District of Colombia, more and more LGBTQ brothers and sisters are following Beyonce's advice and "Putting a ring on it." I've received so many invitations that for 2013, I've had to add a new line to my personal budget for wedding gifts and travel. Amazing!!!

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a reporter and talk about the marriage equality movement and the changes I've seen since 2004 when I first got involved fighting a discriminatory proposal in my home state of Michigan.

Unfortunately that proposal passed, enshrining discrimination into the state's constitution. It went beyond banning same-sex marriage and civil unions, and was interpreted by the Michigan Supreme Court to not allow public employers to grant domestic partnership benefits.

Then as now, I'm not looking for a wife. I've never had dreams of a big wedding, a church wedding or any kind of wedding for that matter. My mother got married in a yellow suit in her parent's living room about three months after meeting my dad. The story was steeped in romanticism but the reality of married life observed from this child's eye - well led me to the conclusion that, like the song goes, "I could do bad by myself."

But there was something about that first foray into the war for marriage equality that hit home. Not only were these opponents spreading lies and falsely vilifying my community, I realized that in many instances I was invisible as a gay American to my friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and community.

Since those early days we, as a community, have done a lot to remove that invisibility and the public shift on gay marriage is the result of all that hard work. Even as I write this I know other states including Illinois are moving towards marriage equality.

A part of me is ready to go out and buy some dancing shoes for all those wedding receptions on the horizon but I'm still not ready to jump on the marriage band wagon.

Why you might ask? Because we still haven't had that real discussion about marriage that goes beyond the ring and the ceremony - the denial of the basic human rights.

I have dialogues on gay rights and marriage on several different sites and on the weekly blog radio program I co-host "Can We Talk For Real." I have been amazed by the diversity of feelings on marriage in the LGBTQ community.

Marriage is how we acknowledge our relationships, a showing of our personal commitment to the love of our life for the whole world to see. So how are we making marriage our own in our ceremonies, in our expectations and in our lives? Are we making it our own or buying into the industry?

I read a recent post where the woman had a laundry list for potential spouses which included not only income and education levels but also that her future spouse owned a car no more than five years old. Then there are the wedding planners/packages that for the right price can give you the best faux-heterosexual ceremony so authentic that even FOX News was fooled recently using a "wedding kiss" photo to accompany a piece about traditional gender roles that was actually of a same sex couple.

But this isn't what we've been fighting for, more like unintended consequences.

What we've been fighting for is equality under the law. Equality promised in the Constitution to protect citizens from discrimination from laws that treat them differently for no good reason. And let's face it, there is no good reason to deny LGBTQ Americans marriage equality.

Protect the sanctity of marriage - seriously. Same sex marriage had nothing to do with Kim Kardashian's failed 72 day marriage, then getting pregnant without benefit of marriage by another man while still married to her 72-day wonder husband.

Marriage is an archaic but evolving institution that establishes the rights and obligations between spouses including at least 1,138 federal tangible benefits, protections, rights, and responsibilities that marriage brings couples and their children. Bottom line is if you want the benefits then you better put a ring on it.

But amidst our voices lifted in singing "Going to the Chapel" is another chorus of voices asking why; why must we go through the motions to provide basic human rights for our spouses and families?

Chicago songstress C.C. Carter related how she had been dragged kicking and screaming to the altar to marry her spouse. It wasn't that she didn't love her wife. They have been together for years and no license or piece of paper could give them greater acknowledgement, recognition or validation. The issue for Carter was why she (or anyone) needed to get a license to provide what should be a basic human right for everyone - to provide for and protect our families.

In the end it's all about love. The love we have for each other. The love we have for our families. The love we have for equality and ultimately, the love we should have for one another to live in peace, safety and equality. Now wouldn't that be an amazing Valentine's gift to the world?

Michelle E. Brown is a Public Speaker, Activist and Author. You can follower her at http://www.mychangeiam.com and http://www.twitter.com/mychangeiam.
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