Now, I'm not really one to get all political about stuff, particularly here, but given the current state of affairs in the U.S. (and most other places in the world), this issue was not lost on anyone in attendance. And, though it wasn't my first gay wedding, I can't seem to shake these feelings. Joy mixed with rage.
Brian and Chris married in a non-denominational, non-religious, quite-brief exchange of very lovely vows (See: "In good times, and other times.") under the sweet and warm-hearted guidance of their officiant (a reiki master and "colour therapist") here in our wacky, Socialist town.
But, you see, they could do precisely anything they wanted and it would be exactly as legal and exactly as beautiful as any other wedding between two human adults on any other third-Saturday in August in any building in this country. Here in the province of Ontario, same-sex marriage has been legal since 2003; federally since 2005.
After the vows, but before her pronouncement, Mary McCandless stopped. She happily, proudly, and somewhat-urgently reminded us that at the moment Brian and Chris sat down to sign their names to their newly-minted register, they would not only be legally and bindingly married in every sense, they'd also be seen, in the eyes of the government, as a new family in an ever-growing index of Canadian Families.
I'd never thought of it quite like that. I mean, of course I know what marriage means, legally and otherwise. In fact, in every way except actually, Jeff and I are married and have been for quite some time. In Canada we have rights to one another, to our shared health and well-being and financially, too. Same-sex common-law partnerships are, in no way, different than those long-standing heterosexual ones. I also know what it means to be placed somewhere on a long list of names tucked away in a government building. We pay taxes, we get voter registration cards, and I've come to assume they're always keeping tabs on us.
But this was different.
But this was different.
Mary McCandless had me spinning. We live in a place that decided, nearly a decade ago, that love is love, and when two men get married, their names are linked in the annals of our truly exemplary nation. There they can be searched, accounted for, traced through time and across epic patterns of lineage. In 1000 years there will be a file or a folder or a notation on a scrap of very-official paper somewhere that associates these two humans inextricably.
This past Saturday, two men who love each other became the first two members of a new family; yet another branch extending from those they were born into, and out of which new lives wills someday grow and thrive.
And while I feel happy for my friends and proud to live in a place that so thoroughly respects this simple and age-old notion, I feel angry for the millions of people around the world without the simple right to share a file in a cabinet in the national archives of a federal office in a country they inhabit wholeheartedly.
When we are cavalier about gay marriage, we are telling people that their names do not count. That their place in history and in record-books and in a burgeoning, global family tree doesn't really matter.
I am a citizen of a country that holds in high esteem my very existence, for reasons beyond taxes and votes. My country wants to know who I am and how I have decided to build a life. In order to understand its people, it wants to trace not only my income and my data, but my love. I live in a country that honours the greatest contribution I can offer.
When my nephew Jack was 5 years old I asked him what "gay" meant. He replied, without missing a beat, "It's what you and Uncle Jeff are. It just means you love each other."