Gay marriage is just real people in love in America

Published May 13, 2012

I know a father.

A friendly, decent, working man. His daughter wears ribbons in her hair while she plays soccer, and his male partner stands by his side as their little girl hustles down the field.

I know a mother.

A sharp, funny woman brimming with spunk. Her son plays with toy soldiers in front of a fireplace on a winter evening as his two moms embrace the life they have built together.

I wish you could know them. I wish I could introduce them to you today.

Unfortunately not all of America believes in their flawless little families, and so they decided it best to stay out of the public eye this morning.

And I suppose that fear for their families is the best way to measure the importance of President Barack Obama's support this week for same-sex marriages.

Criticize the president's announcement as political maneuvering if you wish. Dismiss the issue's significance as a fringe segment of society if you must. Just understand it involves real people. Real parents. Real families.

For these are your neighbors. Teachers, police officers and taxpayers. They vote, drive in the car pool, and endure five-error innings in the bleachers at Little League games.

They are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters.

But never husbands and wives.

At least not in most states.

Forget about the political, legal and societal baggage of same-sex marriages for a moment. Just think in terms of right and wrong. Of freedom and fairness.

A century after women were banned from elections, and decades after blacks were cruelly shunned, how can we possibly think it is acceptable to deny basic human rights because a person is considered different?

How do we discriminate based on who a person loves?

Forgive me if this sounds like a rant. That is not my intention.

It's just that I believe in the principles of this nation. I have faith in the inherent decency of people. And I believe America usually — eventually — gets it right.

Depending on how you interpret the polls, that day may be getting closer. It is true that most Americans still say they are against same-sex marriages, and more than 30 states have passed amendments or legislation to that effect.

But acceptance of gay lifestyles has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. Every succeeding generation seems to better understand that there is nothing to fear.

Now, are there those who will forever disapprove of the gay community? Absolutely. And, to be honest, there's nothing wrong with that. Everyone is free to have their own opinion.

The issue is systematically turning people into second-class citizens.

That sounds un-American, doesn't it? It seems un-Christian, right?

"One day people are going to look back at this issue and wonder why it was such a big deal,'' said Hillsborough attorney Andrea Fair-Purcell. "The idea of treating everyone equally is such a basic concept that it's going to be hard to understand why this was even an issue.

"Just like people who supported slavery and people who didn't believe women should vote, one day we're going to look back at these people today and say they were ignorant.''

Julie and Andrea Fair-Purcell have been together for 15 years and have two boys, ages 2 and 7. They have exchanged rings and consider themselves married, but would still like the option to make it official.


Because they are in love. Because they are committed to one another. Because they want the benefits that come with marriage, and because they want to provide their children with a sense of stability.

In other words, for the same reasons that makes marriage so important to middle-class America.

So will the president's position on same-sex marriage change anything? Probably not in the short term. He still thinks it should be decided at the state level, and that means it has a long way to go.

Yet, despite the amendments and regardless of polls, same-sex marriage does not seem as radical as it once did. More people seem willing to live openly gay lifestyles, and less people seem uncomfortable with that notion.

And maybe that's the answer. It is not about debates or political stances or theological arguments. It's about familiarity. And understanding. And acceptance.

It's about getting to know the person next door. It's about forming opinions based on what you have witnessed instead of what you may have been told.

"Julie and I have probably changed a lot of people's opinions without even realizing it,'' Fair-Purcell said. "You live your life and you hope people see you for the person you are.

"Maybe we're changing minds without even having a conversation about it.''