Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Must

Today in Minnesota was a milestone day : it’s the first day that marriage for gay and lesbian couples became legal in our state. In courthouses, hotel lobbies, and backyards around the state couples who have waited for years, sometimes decades, recited vows, were blessed and declared spouses. It is a day of great joy in so many lives! It’s expected by those in the know that hundreds of new marriages of same-sex couples will be taking place in the weeks to come, and I say God Bless every one of them with a long and happy life together.

But, should there be any same-sex couple that in spite of all the joy around them, is tense, uncertain and uneasy, I hope they also hear this message somehow: just because you can, doesn’t mean you must.

Gay and lesbian couples have all the same challenges that heterosexual couples have. But they also have a huge, additional stress: that of being part of a discriminated minority group. At the last big social survey, about 3-5% of the population is homosexual, and I believe every one of them has endured the pressure of being different from the majority in significant ways. Some have felt the tension between what was expected of them and what they felt within them so intensely they have turned to drugs for relief, self harm for escape, and self denial for peace. How each person in a same-sex couple has managed this discrimination is central to each partner’s story and how the couple functions together.

As the GLBTQ culture explodes with joy and relief at the legal right to now marry in our state, there will be come couples who are just not ready to make a life commitment and who feel the pressure from all sides of their social circle to line up and book the caterer and photographer.  I want to be one among many, I hope, who will remind couples who are uncertain that while marriage law is indeed a political issue, they do not have to get married to make a political statement.

Marriage is a legal union, and comes with a large number of obligations, rights, duties, privileges and can involve children. If you aren’t ready to make this decision, don’t. The freedom to marry includes the freedom not to marry, too.