On National Freedom to Marry Day (celebrated February 12th)

Sandwiched in the middle of an Irish Catholic brood, I have had the great pleasure of participating in the marriages of four of my six siblings. The image of my younger sister and best friend, Moira, standing before me in my mom's exquisite ivory wedding gown, beads of August sweat pearling across her forehead and her eyes glistening with emotion, will remain indelibly etched on my heart. I thought the joy I felt that day -- her wedding day, not my own -- would be the pinnacle of my wedding-related emotions. Already in my late 20s and as yet uninvolved in any sort of deeply serious committed relationship, I assumed I would quite happily live my life as an unchained single woman. This confidence enabled me to deflect my mom's earnest inquiries into the status of my coupling for the next decade.

My whole word went dramatically topsy-turvy in January 2007 when, at the ripe age of 38, I finally had the courage to come out as a lesbian, first to myself and, subsequently, to family and friends. Fortunately, my family received the news with openheartedness, their words expressing deep care, happiness, and sincere gratitude that I had finally acknowledged this fundamental aspect of my truest self.

Nothing practically shifted for months and months, even while my heart seemed to be blossoming within me. Then, one breezy full moonlit night in June of 2007, a budding friendship took an unexpected turn. My colleague and confidante, Christine, admitted that she had fallen for me. Ensuing months brought a colorful spectrum of emotions, as my own bright curiosity turned to fiery infatuation, eventually mellowing into a deeper, golden hue that came more and more to feel like committed love.

In May 2008, California's Supreme Court pronounced that same-sex couples should have the right to marry, a ruling that took effect in mid-June 2008. Our relationship gathering in surety and intensity, with a joint bank account and shared housing tethering our lives more closely to one another, Christine and I suddenly realized that we could choose to make our intended lifelong pledge of commitment to one while legally gaining access to the same protections enjoyed by heterosexual married couples under California law. These ranged from the practical, such as visiting each other unimpeded in the event of hospitalization, to the economical, such as being named as the spouse on your beloved's IRA or pension. As well, the Supreme Court decision of May 2008 affirmed that Christine and I were as equally entitled as any two heterosexual individuals to seal our intentions of lifelong care, honor, and fidelity to one another within the bond called "marriage."

On a sparkling morning in October 2008, backed by the crashing applause of the morning tide hitting the shores of Natural Bridges State Beach and in the presence of loved ones, Christine and I became wife and wife. That day, I learned that my wedding-related elation could -- indeed, did -- surpass that which I experienced while serving as Moira's Maid of Honor.

On August 12th, my parents will mark a half century since they took their precious vows to love, honor, and cherish one another "'til death do [them] part." We will gather as a much-extended family (now numbering 30!) to commend their faithful upholding of the promises they made to one another back on a Baltimore summer's day in 1961. Standing next to my wife, Christine, as we mark this formidable achievement, I will also offer a heartfelt prayer of gratitude for all those who labored to ensure that we could make a similar commitment to one another in the presence of loved ones and within the legal sanction provided at one time by California law. I will also hold in mind those from Maryland to Missouri, Oregon to Ohio, and places far beyond our own national borders who still strive to secure equal rights and protections, access and opportunities for all human beings, without exception.

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The arts figured prominently in California's efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. For example, check out this video composed by the California nonprofit Courage Campaign in support of same-sex marriage leading up to the vote on Proposition 8 (a November 2008 ballot measure that defined marriage in California as between one man and one woman).

To read more about the status of same-sex marriage across the United States, click here.

To learn about the status of same-sex marriage globally, click here.