The best man at my wedding was, and is, gay. We met several years before I met my wife. We were both fresh out of college, finding our way in relationships. We would take turns, over espresso drinks, listening to one another’s hopeless crushes, dating mishaps, and heartbreaks. With each new relationship we learned a little more about what we each wanted in a partner, and encouraged each other that we would, one day, find The One–his patient, kind, domestic-minded guy; my smart, quirky, artistic girl. For both of us, finding a partner who wanted kids was important.
As soon as Val and I got married, we started referring to ourselves as a family. After the death of our infant son, my understanding of what marriage and family means changed dramatically. The commitment we made in our wedding ceremony–to love one another unconditionally, as best we can–was held to the fire. Grieving our hopes and dreams as parents tested the definition of “family” as a unit of support. Certainly, we were stronger together than apart–but some days we found ourselves both simply unable to give any more. It was in these times that the greater family–including relatives and friends–buoyed us up. Our commitment to love each other, and to support each other in learning and growing in the midst of adversity, became a new, refined definition of what it means to be married, and to be a family.
Shortly after Val and I got married, my best man met his man. Even as our lives ran in parallel when we were single, I also see both he and his partner now demonstrating this new meaning of marriage and family–supporting one another in learning, and growing, and becoming better human beings in the midst of adversity and prejudice. They baby-proofed their home prior to the adoption agency’s inspection the way some budding lawyers study for the bar exam–extensively, meticulously, because so much is riding on the result. They have been waiting for their child for some time now. Lucky the child who gets these two great, eager dads.
I would love to see them legally married. Not because it would deepen their commitment, or somehow legitimize their relationship, but because it would support a definition of marriage and family that is predicated on striving toward unconditional love. Anywhere this is found, there is a true family. Anywhere this is practiced wholeheartedly, it forms a bond thicker than blood. Because what makes life meaningful, what makes it all matter, is love. And love, like life itself, does not fit neat categories. It does not match our expectations and ideals. Because it is about so much more than gender, or genetics. It is about what makes us essentially human, and gives us the courage to endure.
Marriage is the sanctification of this commitment to love. A family is a unit of support that has made this same commitment to each member, whether two people or twelve. The success of these units in supporting each member to learn, and grow, and become better despite life’s challenges, is the measure by which the health of our society can be gauged. But first, this opportunity must be extended freely and without prejudice, in acknowledgment of its importance, and in acknowledgment of the potential of each one of us to better ourselves through loving one another past our differences and challenges–as family, in the truest sense of that word.