Poofy gowns or notby Barbara Kapetanakes, PsyD. on 10/06/14
The big news today is that the US Supreme Court has refused to entertain requests from several states to uphold their bans on gay marriage, in effect, making it inevitable that those states will have to allow and recognize gay marriage in the near future. By dismissing the states' requests, the Supreme Court basically tossed out the bans by not doing anything.
Supporters are cheering outside the Supreme Court Building.
Public opinion has been changing quickly. More and more Americans support gay marriage, feeling it has no impact on their own marriages or relationships, and that the legal and financial protections given to married people should be made available to any two consenting adults who want to marry. Perhaps with the huge increase in divorce, multiple marriages, children born out of wedlock, celebrities getting married for a month before splitting, and various other ways in which marriage and families have changed, the general public now turns a blind eye to what others are doing in their own homes, including wanting to marry a person of the same gender.
From a psychological standpoint, relationships need to be recognized and acknowledged by the outside world. Years of living "in the closet" and sneaking around can wreak havoc on any relationship, be that a homosexual relationship, a forbidden affair, or any relationship that for any reason is kept a secret, even if it's an open secret. It was not that long ago that many states forbid interracial marriages, and people involved in such a love affair had to hide, move north, or risk arrest or worse, simply because of who they loved.
We could say, in this age of social media, that we generally want to "broadcast" our relationship status; we want to show the world our true feelings for each other, have a ceremony if that's our choice, throw a party, wear rings, and otherwise be part of a couple. In addition, legal marriage brings certain benefits and protections that cohabitation does not. Before getting married I was on my husband's health insurance as his domestic partner. But now I can also benefit from his social security in my old age, collect his pension if I live longer, and make legal and medical decisions without the rigamarole of extra paperwork. Gay couples never had those options and that peace of mind, until now. As more and more states recognize gay marriage, more and more couples will have what the rest of us have taken for granted. Most people don't realize that if a gay couple gets legally married in New York, for example, but they live in a state where gay marriage is not legal, their union will not be recognized and all the benefits they might reap in New York will be out of their reach where they live. In a global economy where people may move for a job this is a real issue. Imagine being able to share in your spouse's health insurance plan in one place, but when he gets a transfer to an office in another state you are dropped from the plan because your relationship does not exist? Or having a partner who is ill and being unable to make medical decisions, or in some cases, even visit, because you are not "family."
Some couples have been waiting decades to be able to make a public statement about the true nature of their commitments. They can now make the same choices as heterosexuals have made for millennia. If that choice is to marry, great. If it's to remain partners, great. If it's to mingle their money, great. If they choose not to, that's fine too. At least they have that choice now.
My relationship is not really different than it was before we went down to the village hall and signed some papers. My husband chose not to wear a ring, which is fine, I joked that I'd just get a bigger one if I didn't have to buy one for him. We still spend a lot of time together while also giving each other a lot of space (interesting balance). He is free to do the third-world traveling that he enjoys while I stay home with my creature comforts, and I recently hopped on a plane to visit a friend for the weekend leaving him home with the pets. Other times we go off on adventures together and build memories of our lives. But getting that ring I had my eye on and having the peace of mind that comes with the legal, financial, and other benefits, was enough for me, even if I never wanted the white gown and the flower girl. It's nice to see the Supreme Court uphold the rights of all people to make those same, or their own, choices. Poofy gowns, tuxedos, and centerpieces or a quick stop at a local City Hall, it has no impact on me what someone else chooses, I just wish them well.