On this celebratory weekend, when both Canadians and Americans observe the birth of our nations, I am feeling quite celebratory myself.
It was nearly as momentous an occasion of us as it was for the bride and groom. Since Chris is newly out as of March a year ago, our appearance as a couple felt a bit like a debut. We were both deeply touched by the warm welcome we received from his rather large family. I felt immediately embraced as a part of the family. This was a huge relief for Chris: perhaps one of the biggest hurdles in his journey of coming out. For me, who have no siblings, and have lost my parents over 25 years ago, it was very heart-warming to feeling instantly a part of such a large and generous family.
Two days later, during our leisurely return drive, the Canadian Parliament finally approved a re-definition of marriage to refer to ‘two persons’ of whatever gender. Thus, the love that a hundred years ago ‘dare not speak its name’ has finally been recognized as fully equal. For me, who grew up in the era when being gay was severely castigated, it feels deeply validating to have such full legal recognition. Chris and I proudly held hands in as we walked in archly conservative Alberta, even as we do in the gay neighbourhood in Vancouver. I believe that in another couple of generations, people will wonder why there was ever such a fuss: of course people love each other, regardless of their gender, and wish to form lasting partnerships based on that loving bond.
I realize that there are still some Canadians, and even more Americans, who are troubled by the idea of legalizing same-sex marriage. They see it as an unwholesome change in an institution which is the bedrock of society: the family. But the idea of family and marriage has been evolving, and will continue to do so, to meet the needs of a changing world. A hundred years ago, families were large, and ‘extended,’ with three or four generations living in close connection; now families are small, ‘nuclear’ and more intentional. Couples often choose to have few if any children. At a deep level, many realize the planet no longer needs more people. It is more common, and acceptable, to form relationships for mutual support and love, without the expectation of raising a family. So the gender of the pairing is no longer important.
Some are resistant to change, because they see the “tradition” of marriage as having a long, and even God-commanded history. Yet as we humans evolve into more conscious beings, many marriage “traditions” have changed. Wife-selling, which was commonly acceptable until the mid-19th century, is now abhorrent, as is wife-beating. Until 1965, Canada‘s Criminal Code made a distinction between beating your wife and common assault. Only in 1929 were married women in Canada declared to be persons in the eyes of the law, rather than chattels belonging to their husbands. Until relatively recently, it was not a crime for a husband to have sex with his wife without her consent; today marital rape is quite properly a criminal offense. Marriage is constantly being redefined as social enlightenment progresses.
Today, same-sex marriage is recognized in four countries: Belgium, Holland, Canada, as of a couple of days ago, Spain. In addition, civil unions for same-sex couples are legal in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, parts of Switzerland, and in all of Great Britain effective this coming December. This is clearly a trend. Humanity is evolving to higher consciousness. It is increasingly recognized that stable, love relationships deserve to be acknowledged and supported by society, because they benefit all of society, and the entire human family.