My new bride and I sat, misty-eyed, looking out at my little brother as he read his best man speech. Some of the mist came from funny memories that he shared with the room; some of it could be attributed to the more heartfelt remarks he made. He printed off a copy of his speech so my wife and I could read along, just in case he couldn’t ride out the emotions of the words on the paper.
He powered through to the end, delivering one of the best wedding toasts I’d ever heard.
For my entire life, my wedding day and the marriage that followed were an inevitability in my mind. I knew I’d find a great girl and settle down. We would have an incredible wedding day and then follow it with a long, loving marriage. It was never something that I considered out of my reach. That’s because I’ve never been denied the choice to marry the person that I love.
My brother was never granted such certainty.
Up until the summer of 2011, when gay marriage was legalized in our home state of New York, he never knew if his wedding day would ever be a reality. Since then, it’s been legalized throughout the United States, giving gay people like my brother the right to marry whoever it is that they love.
Unfortunately, a passing of a law doesn’t necessarily turn the tide of opinion. It just makes it illegal to deny a gay couple a marriage certificate. The court of public opinion moves even slower than the Supreme Court at times, so there are still people that aren’t in favor of the ruling.
In an effort to progress the thoughts of that slow moving public court, let’s observe some traditional marriage vows, then with each section, break down why gay men and women have just as much a right to recite them as straight men and women.
“I, take you, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”
To have and to hold from this day forward
Any relationship begins with having and holding; enjoying the privilege of having someone that special in your life, and holding them close any chance you get. When that relationship blossoms and leads to marriage vows, this poetic promise is that they’ll continue that spark that began their relationship in the first place. Keep holding the person that you love even as time ages their body and their looks. Keep appreciating the gift of having that person in your life every day, and showing that appreciation.
Straight men and women aren’t the only ones capable of having and holding their partners for the rest of their lives. It’s not a trait that shows itself only in those that are attracted to someone of the opposite sex. Gay women and men love the just the same. There’s no reason to believe that a straight couple will “have” and “hold” their spouse any better than a gay couple would.
For better, for worse
This portion of these traditional vows rings true in every marriage, straight or gay. There will be highs and lows, and anyone willing to love their partner through the roller coaster of life deserves that chance. Life is ever changing, and at times challenging, and within a marriage there are two people living that challenge of life together. That makes it twice as hard. There’s no evidence that says a gay person can’t weather the storm with their husband or wife any better than a straight person can.
For richer, for poorer
Finances: one of the biggest strains on a long term relationship or marriage. Not many have been able to escape the stress of paying a bill on time, affording the house you want, or paying for graduate school. Any marriage will be susceptible to some financial challenges, but the strong ones find a way to overcome. Daycare prices are crazy, college tuition is disgraceful, and inflation is a never ending beast. But the best marriages find a way to make it work. There’s nothing special about a straight person that says that they are better with money than their gay counterpart. A gay man or woman could conquer our capitalist culture just as well as any straight man or woman before them.
In sickness and in health, until death do us part
When two loving people decide to get married, they are signing up for life. They are committing to be the other person’s rock until the day that they die. One of the most important roles within a marriage is that of the caregiver. There will come a time when one’s wife or husband will face some physical or emotional health crisis, and it’s the responsibility of their partner to take care of them. Gay men and women not only understand this, they revere it. Prior to gay marriage being legalized, they have fought for years for their right to be a lifetime caregiver of the person they loved. There’s no greater honor than being the person that your partner can count on through everything life has to throw at you.
These words, these vows, that are spoken in so many wedding ceremonies throughout the world, can be applied to any loving relationship. It doesn’t matter that it’s a man who loves a woman, or a man who loves a man. Any human is capable of loving the way that these vows are intended, and anyone that thinks that gay men and women are less capable need a reality check.
The one core principle of marriage is love. Straight people don’t love any better than gay people, so there should be no reason that the holy grail of love–a deep, meaningful marriage–should be an exclusive club.
Straight or gay, love is love. Since marriage is built around love, marriage equality should be a given.
Filled with great memories, emotional admissions, and pointed jokes, my little brother gave one of the best wedding toasts I’ve ever heard. I’m so incredibly thankful that one day, I’ll be able to return the favor.