2013-06-22

Last fall, as election season raged on, I was thinking about the candidates and California State Propositions I would vote for. Same sex marriage was not on the ballot this year for California. Prop 8 had reached the Supreme Court earlier in the year. However, the issue was front and center in several other states.

I started thinking in earnest about what my views were regarding same sex relationships and same sex marriage, and how I should best make my voice heard (through votes and other actions) given my beliefs. I decided to throw out my incumbent positions from my mind and construct a belief and decision framework from scratch.

Previously, my position was that I was is favor of providing all the rights afforded to "married couples" (tax benefits, visitation rights, etc) but in an ideal world I preferred this to manifest itself through a civil union rather than "marriage". Having had gay friends in college for the first time in my life, I definitely wanted them to enjoy all the rights and privileges that heterosexual couples have access to. Growing up in a fairly conservative family and attending a prep school founded by a Mormon family, I unfortunately can't confidently say that I held these beliefs prior to college. But once I had personal relationships with friends who, at that time, wouldn't have the same rights and privileges as I would, I knew for sure that they deserved all the nice things I had access to.

But at this time, I wasn't quite comfortable with gay "marriage". This was certainly due to my conservative upbringing with the undertones of a Christian values. While I myself am agnostic, the values and positions of those around me had permeated into me over the years. While I wasn't "against" gay marriage, I definitely wasn't comfortable with it either. When every image of marriage I'd had in my life had been between a man and a woman, same sex marriage instinctively felt somewhat awkward.

As I sat there in the fall of 2012, I was adamant about throwing all these preconceptions and existing beliefs out the window. I was going to start from scratch, start from the very basic building blocks of my attitudes and wishes for my gay friends as well as my assessment of the political situation, and construct a position anew.

What was the most important thing in all of this? Until now the most important factor was myself and what I was comfortable with. Since I wasn't quite at ease with "gay marriage" itself, I had wanted to see a civil union with full rights. But when I really thought hard that day in my kitchen, feet on the counter with an absentee ballot in front of me, I realized that the most important thing in all of this wasn't me and what I ideally wanted. What mattered most were my friends who still didn't have all the rights they deserved. It became clear to me then that a future where they'd enjoy all the benefits I had access to, currently kept away from them owing to the random whim of genetics, was infinitely more important than my nit picky discomfort.

The political situation is very polarized. The choices are either "yes gay marriage" or "no gay marriage". The choices presented to me as a voter doesn't include "civil unions with full rights". So there are only two possible futures. Yes or No. No middle ground. Faced with a choice, Yes or No, I could no longer say No in good conscience, now that my values and priorities were made anew. I had to say Yes. Even if I still wasn't 100% comfortable with what the Yes would bring, the Yes world would be much better than the No world for me. It's not the best world for my selfish soul, but it is easily the better choice and the only good choice that had a chance of becoming a reality.

And so finally, after all these years, I am a supporter of gay "marriage". I still feel a little bit uneasy when thinking about it. But this isn't about me. This is about the people who are affected directly by this. This is about the people, friends, who should have every right I have and yet don't.

In closing, I should mention that while I have "come around", I don't think everyone needs to do the same. Whatever decision we make by examining our own beliefs deeply is fine by me, whatever that decision and position may be.

But I do hope that the decision is yours and yours only. I hope that we all think hard for ourselves, looking back at who we know and what we value, and come up with our own choice, rather than hazily following the lead of others. It's not our community's choice or our parents' choice or our religion's choice. It's our own choice as independent, introspective, incisive individuals.