Some wedding receptions have everything. This one did. A radiant couple deeply in love. Touching, and sometimes funny, tributes by friends and family. Great food. Fine music and dancing. A huge crowd of wedding guests happy to be sharing in the couple’s joy. No doubt the guests have already benefited (as I certainly have) from the love of this couple: shared meals, kindnesses, honest conversations, worries over health problems, laughter — and more laughter. True love is like that; it generates goodness in its wake. And even a jaded divorcee with a track record of making bad choices can spot true love when she sees it, amazed and happy to know that this precious commodity still exists. Our philosophers, poets, saints and singers know it, too, and it inspires them.
Like so many U.S. couples, my friends — the couple who just wed — lived together before their marriage. For 10 years, their love grew in ways that strengthened them both, as well as helping their families and friends. One had been in a marriage for 25 years and has four children and six grandchildren. The other was never married but had several relationships, long and short. They met a year or two after the breakup of that 25-year marriage. And the rest is history.
At the wedding reception, family and friends spoke passionately about some of the shared benefits of their relationship. A twenty-something daughter from Baltimore said what a strength this bonding has been to her and her siblings. A sister from western Maryland said how valuable it was having both of them to share with her the burden of the sicknesses and deaths of her parents — even requiring for them, as it did, many trips between Baltimore and Hagerstown for visits to nursing homes and hospitals.
This is beginning to sound like a Hallmark card, so — in the interest of authenticity — I admit that occasionally I’ve heard a disagreement or two erupt between these two. They’re not alike in their skills, their temperament or even in many of their interests. One is a reader whose legendary cooking skills include heating up Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks. But what a reader! (That love of reading was inherited from a mother who was also the Boonsboro, Md., town librarian.) The other is a “mover,” always physically active and able to turn out a meal for six to eight without breaking a sweat, while also chatting up whoever is hanging out in the kitchen. (Not surprisingly, that’s the one with the four kids.)
But they are both wise and good. They’re able to back off, when necessary, and respect their differences; they can summon up the patience it takes, in whatever form it must, to have a solid, enduring relationship. And in ways that matter the most, they’re exactly alike: kind, loving and caring, and adventurous. (I’ve given up trying to keep track of the schedule of their trips abroad.) They’re both men, by the way.
The wedding reception was in Baltimore, but my friends had to marry in the District because the Civil Marriage Protection Act, the Maryland law that legalized same-sex marriage in the state, doesn’t go into effect until January. I hope we Marylanders turn back the very unloving referendum we’ll find on this fall’s election ballot, asking voters to repeal that law. The sad incongruity here is that the referendum was engineered by dogmatic Christian churches; these institutions hope that Maryland Christians will forget the core teaching of Jesus Christ: Love one another.
Whether you’re religious, agnostic or atheist, be sure you’re registered to vote, and vote to uphold the Civil Marriage Protection Act, so that the love of gay men and lesbians can be legally sanctioned as marriage, if they so desire. Maryland should respect their love, because Maryland needs their love. I know I do. And one day, you may need it too.