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Defining Love And Marriage


While many Americans question the definition of marriage, commentator Rawlins Gilliland says there’s no question how he defines love.  

As someone whose first adult position was National Endowment for the Arts resident poet, how can I not think of love when the season is spring and April perfumes the air?  Love validates anyone’s life journey the way a stamped passport proves we’ve 'been there'.  And when Cupid’s arrows pierce our shared humanity, no one is exempt from fantasies of marital bliss. Or so I thought until I loved another man. My question to the Supreme Court is whether ‘love and marriage’ is a brokered premise or a broken promise.  

 In 1969, I recorded in my journal the following dialog spoken to the first adult male I truly loved when we were both twenty-four. "You know what makes me sad? After I met you, I learned how it felt to want to be with someone and create a life together. But I keep asking myself, 'What does this lead to' and the answer is nothing except what it is. I want being with you to be celebrated. I don't know what that means but I know how it feels."  I realize now what I could not comprehend then; I simply wanted what everyone else had because, after falling in love, I became ‘everyone else’.

Four decades later, young people are likely to yawn at the thought of me proposing to another man. But historic and religious precedents defining marriage make older conservative resistance understandable.  Less predictable is the lagging ambivalence from older progressives whose pushback is subtle. "You can help yourself but don't take too much" may be the lyrics to a Billie Holiday song but it is also a silent mantra chanted by those who liked things as they were; when their hushed concept of male pairings meant the local florist with a 'roommate'.

To those willingly naïve, it disorients their ingrained imagery, seeing that six-foot tall all-state hockey player addicted to ESPN who snowboards in Chile holding another man’s hand. But sexual attraction affairs of the heart were always more abstract than commonly believed.  Meaning the new norm was yesterday’s old norm hiding in plain sight. 

Whether or not love conquers all, in or out of the courts, the accelerated pace of change makes many suggest that more time is needed to assess and acclimate.  For someone my age, being told to wait until I’m closer to death’s door before glimpsing a sanctioned heaven’s gate is a love-struck limbo hell on earth. I’m only human.

Ultimately, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness come down to having options.  In this case, when anyone may consider if someone he or she is dating might be marriage material.  Surely attorneys support gay marriage since, if I could have married the men I’ve loved, I’d be a man three times divorced. But practice makes perfect and I can tell you that if I live long enough to marry a man I love, I can die happy.  That’s not too much to ask.  Is it?

Rawlins Gilliland is a writer from Dallas.