I recently wrote about a joyous event in my life – my engagement to Brandon, with a ceremony planned for sometime next year. But I’d also like to share the stories of three other couples we’ve come across recently. Their stories, while not uncommon, show the silent strength and courage many have shown, living lives of quiet inspiration!
While onboard our cruise, we came across a same-sex couple who – after 29 years of living together, unrecognized by their home State as a couple – had finally been able to get married last year. Can you imagine – 29 years of life, love and pursuit of happiness…and 29 years of discrimination, lack of legal recognition, and (probably) an inability to celebrate anniversaries as proudly as opposite-sex couples do in such settings. Their story profoundly touched us – helping us to remember that while we were going to be able to consider a legal union in Indiana, many couples had made significant life commitments without the benefits we now have (and hopefully, won’t take for granted).
We wanted to do something special for them – even on a small scale, because their story (in stark contrast to ours) literally brought us to tears. Brandon took one of the roses from our “romance bouquet,” and we walked up to the spa to meet the couple. We gave them the rose, and then shared our stories with one another. Afterwards, there were hugs and kisses – and I know we left slightly more humbled, and slightly more grateful for the changes afoot.
Last Friday, we attended another celebration of love. A local same-sex couple – together for 19 years – were finally able to “tie the knot.” And while this scene has played out hundreds of times across our State of Indiana in past months, this was the first “wedding” we were attending as an engaged couple. (Yay!) So again, it had particular significance for us. And, given my Lenten journey last year in protest of a local bakery, it was particularly exciting to see (and taste!) the amazing custom cake made for the special couple.
Marriage in its most basic form is a public celebration of a couple’s love for one another. And while legally, we are now able to participate in this sacred ceremony, in many churches, such unions are still either forbidden by the denominations’ governing laws – or such unions are celebrated nonetheless in some churches, in quiet protest against and in technical violation of their denomination’s governing laws. So while the State recognizes such unions, some clergy, who conduct such unions for their members who want to celebrate their love for one another as well as their faith in God, face serious consequences should word ever “leak out.” So, despite our “progress,” many same-sex couples who have a spiritual life may still go about their public celebration in “quiet inspiration,” keeping photos and specifics out of social or news media for fear of jeopardizing their pastors’ livelihood. Room to grow, I’d say…but still, progress!
And finally, I recently learned of a friend who had a serious car accident as a result of a brain aneurysm and subsequently died after a week long coma at the age of 55. He and his life partner had not chosen to get married – though that would likely not have changed much of what happened afterwards. The living partner still faced rejection from his former partner’s family, in spite of 20+ years of being together as a couple.
I knew something was “up” when I read Ted’s obituary. There was no mention of his partner, Steve, in the list of survivors. REALLY! How scary – and sad. Overlooked, forgotten, ignored…choose your poison. [Unfortunately, I have changed the names, feeling compelled to protect the living partner from any further pain…] I have since learned that not only was Steve not included in the obituary, when Ted’s family decided to “pull the plug” after a week-long coma, they didn’t invite Steve to be at the hospital, at his partner’s side. Then, to make matter’s worse, Ted’s family didn’t allow Steve to attend the funeral. WTF!
Yes, Governor Pence, in 2015, bigotry and hatred still exist – not just at your State’s level (with the recent passing of your religious freedom law). But on a very personal level, at a time when someone should be able to grieve and say good-bye to his or her life partner…they find themselves excluded from health care decisions, funerals and more I’m sure. And sadly, this has been repeated many times, in silent desperation, in spite of our progress on other fronts…
So with mixed emotions, I celebrate the life of these three couples – their love is inspirational. I hope others agree, and will continue to help us fight discrimination, hatred and bigotry at every level…