Guest Opinion: Young, gay, married, grateful

BY GUEST OPINION | JULY 08, 2013 5:00 AM

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Out of all of my friends and family, I married the youngest.

I’m also officially married in the most limited geographical territory — 13 states (and, says the hopeful part of me, counting). I was married to my husband two weeks before the Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional; we watched the live blog from the courtroom holding hands, barely breathing, and quickly our silence turned to joyful shouts. This will not solve rampant discrimination against gay and transgender people, but it means something to people such as my husband and me — even though, at 23 and 24, we are younger by far than the average gay husbands.

Being a man married to a man has a peculiar politicization. The ring on my finger and the wedding certificate make it harder for people to ignore my homosexuality. I’m working as an organizer in rural faith communities this summer, many of which are conservative, and I have promised to myself that I will not hide my sexuality (as if I could in the first place); this means that I rely on grace in my work, the grace that helps people to reconsider their prior notions of who gay people are, what we care about, what we do. My husband and I have relied on this grace throughout our lives, in our families and our communities; we celebrate its action in the halls of power, too.

Our legal ceremony was sparse and bare bones, performed in my grandfather’s apartment in Washington, D.C. Morgan and I swore we’d be with each other in sickness and health, through times richer and poorer. Holding eye contact with him as I repeated after my parents’ minister, I felt a sobering awe; we were tapping into a centuries-old ritual, one with a power far greater than our own.

We will have a bigger ceremony with personal vows and a friend-filled reception this fall in Berkeley, but the legal aspect — the part that the government recognizes — all happened in the space of 10 minutes.

We would still consider ourselves married without government legitimation, of course. But this means something for us and others — it means something for kids aware now that this kind of life is an option for them. It means more security, more integrity, no longer having to lie on our tax documents. Some of the right-wing folks are right: The legalization of same-sex marriage does normalize it. That’s not a bad thing.

I wouldn’t recommend young marriage for everyone, much less young gay people; it’s harder for us to find partners, after all, and I only happened to run into the right man at the right time. I have great sympathy for my marriage-disinclined gay brothers and lesbian sisters, now facing the familiar nagging about tying the knot. But in the end, I believe we are meant to practice love over and over again, growing into the kind of love that endures forever.

My own future with Morgan is a mystery. But I know what I believe: that our marriage will support and nourish us during our work in the world; our work that is bigger than our sexuality and shaped by love and grace.

Shay O’Reilly worked as the Opinions editor of The Daily Iowan in the spring and summer of 2011. He now studies Christian social ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

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